Rates on 30-year and 15-year mortgages dropped for the fourth consecutive week, welcome news for people wanting to buy a house.

Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly nationwide survey that rates on benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were 6 percent this week, down from 6.01 percent last week. This week's rate was the lowest since the week ending April 22, when 30-year rates averaged 5.94 percent.

Thirty-year rates hit a low this year of 5.38 percent in the middle of March.

Rates for 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, often used for refinancing, dropped to 5.40 percent this week from 5.42 percent last week.

Rates on one-year adjustable rate mortgages also were down, falling to 4.02 percent, from 4.05 percent the previous week.

The lower rates signals investors' sense that the economy will grow solidly, though not so fast that Federal Reserve policy-makers would be forced to move aggressively in raising short-term interest rates. Those market forces have pushed down bond rates, which in turn have depressed mortgage rates.

With the economy on firm ground, the Fed raised rates for the first time in four years on June 30.

"Taken as a whole, there are few compelling reasons why mortgage rates should dramatically increase right now," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, citing several recent weaker-than-expected economic reports. That has reinforced the notion that the Fed can raise interest rates gradually.

"With inflation under control and the economy growing nicely, the housing market continues at its current healthy pace," Nothaft said.

A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.52 percent, with 15-year mortgages at 4.85 percent and one-year ARMs stood at 3.55 percent.

The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Each loan type carried an average fee of 0.6 point this week.

In a separate report, the Mortgage Bankers Association said refinancings accounted for 35.8 percent of total mortgage loan applications filed last week, unchanged from the previous week.

EVENTS . . . A tour of the President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. July 24. The tour is to be led by National Trust for Historic Preservation project manager Sophia Lynn, preservation projects manager David Overholt and Hillier Architecture's George Skarmeas. The monument is undergoing a $1.7 million exterior restoration to return the gothic revival-style cottage, the centerpiece of the Monument -- to its Civil War-era appearance. Dress appropriately for a construction tour. The National Building Museum and National Trust are sponsoring the tour, which is open to members of the two organizations for $15. Non-members pay a $55 admission, which includes annual museum membership. Registration deadline is Monday. Call 202-272-2448 for information; Web site: www.nbm.org

PERSONNEL . . . Geoffrey Griffis joined Hickok Warner Cole Architects as an associate.

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