Mortgage rates around the country edged up this week as investors tried to decipher mixed economic reports and other information about the economy's direction.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was 6.03 percent this week, after dropping to a new low last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly survey. Last week's rate of 5.94 percent was the lowest since the mortgage company began tracking 30-year mortgage rates in 1971. It also had marked the seventh time this year that rates on the benchmark mortgage hit a new low.

Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option or refinancing, also rose this week, to 5.44 percent. Last week's rate on 15-year mortgages was 5.32 percent, the lowest level since Freddie Mac began tracking these rates in 1991.

"Mortgage rates moved upward a little in response to the current volatility in the financial markets," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "Economic reports are mixed and this will keep mortgage rates bouncing up and down somewhat, probably for the rest of this year."

Low mortgage rates this year have been feeding a refinancing boom. The extra monthly cash consumers are saving by refinancing their mortgages at lower interest rates is helping to support consumer spending, which has been the main force keeping the economy going this year.

Home sales, stoked by low mortgage rates, are likely to post records this year.

For one-year adjustable-rate mortgages, rates increased to an average of 4.14 percent this week, compared with 4.09 percent last week.

This week's mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Each loan type carried an average fee of 0.6 point this week.

A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 6.75 percent, 15-year mortgages were at 6.24 percent and one-year ARMs stood at 5.18 percent.

PERSONNEL . . . The Northern Virginia Building Industry Association elected Louis Genuario Jr. president for 2003 at last week's general membership meeting in Fairfax. Genuario is president of Genuario Cos., which includes Genuario Properties, Wakefield Homes and Genuario Construction. Other elected positions: Steve Alloy, first vice president, Stanley Martin Cos.; Roy O. Beckner, secretary, S.W. Rodgers Co.; Scott Plein , treasurer, K.T. Enterprises; Patti Brownstein, vice president for associates, LGPI; Robin Newhouse, vice president for member services, Dominion Virginia Power; and Randy Minchew, vice president for government affairs, Westview Associates. Diane Cox Basheer, immediate past president, Diane Cox Basheer Communities, stays on the executive board with presidential appointees Clark Massie, Tetra Corp., and Ken Thompson, Ken Thompson & Associates.

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