Rates on 30-year mortgages fell below the 6 percent level this week for the first time in three months, but economists said they don't expect rates to stay that low for long.
Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly nationwide survey that rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.98 percent this week, down from 6 percent last week. The rate was the lowest since late April, when 30-year rates averaged 5.94 percent.
Since peaking at a high for this year of 6.34 percent in mid-May, 30-year mortgage rates have been headed lower, reflecting in part a slowdown in economic activity in June.
The economy hit what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on Tuesday termed a "soft patch" in June. Greenspan, however, in delivering the Fed's mid-year economic forecast to Congress, sought to allay fears that the slowdown could threaten the sustainability of the recovery. He predicted that growth would soon rebound even as the Fed proceeds with what Greenspan indicated should be a gradual pace of rate increases.
Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, said that the Fed's outlook for the second half of this year was "more upbeat than expected," and he said this stronger growth will translate into further increases in mortgage rates and other interest rates set by financial markets along with the rise in short-term rates controlled by the Fed. "However, the rise in mortgage rates will be measured, not extreme, and that will help keep the housing industry stable and affordable in the coming months," he said.
The Freddie Mac survey found that rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, averaged 5.39 percent this week, the lowest level since late April and down from 5.40 percent last week.
Rates on one-year adjustable rate mortgages rose this week to 4.12 percent, from 4.02 percent.
The 30-year mortgage fell to the lowest level in more than four decades in mid-June 2003 when it averaged 5.21 percent for two weeks.
A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.67 percent, with 15-year mortgages at 5.0 percent percent and one-year ARMs at 3.58 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.
PERSONNEL . . . Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage named Linda Fredeking vice president and director of relocation services for the mid-Atlantic region, including Washington, Maryland, Northern Virginia and Delaware.
DONATIONS . . . Century 21 New Millennium, a real estate brokerage with 10 offices in Maryland and Virginia, is collecting school supplies for local charities and schools this month and next. Supplies should be brought to the firm's offices. For information, 703-797-2386; Web site: www.c21nm.com.
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