Rates on 30-year mortgages, which had fallen for five consecutive weeks, reversed course and rose this week with the rate climbing above 6 percent.
Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly nationwide survey that rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.08 percent, up from 5.98 percent last week, which had been the first time rates had fallen to less than 6 percent since late April.
Since peaking at a high for this year of 6.34 percent the week of May 13, 30-year mortgage rates had fallen for five consecutive weeks, reflecting in part a slowdown in economic activity. The economy hit what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan described in congressional testimony last week as a "soft patch" in June.
Analysts attributed the increase in rates to other comments Greenspan made that while the central bank expects it will be able to raise rates in a gradual manner, it will not hesitate to switch to a more accelerated pace should inflation pressures start to appear.
"So far, inflation seems to be under control, but if the economy should heat up too rapidly, the Fed would have to act quickly and decisively," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist.
The Freddie Mac survey found that rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, averaged 5.49 percent this week, up from a three-month low of 5.39 percent last week.
Rates on one-year adjustable- rate mortgages were 4.17 percent, up from 4.12 percent last week.
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 decline that helped spurred record sales of new and existing homes and record levels of mortgage refinancings.
While refinancing activity has moderated this year, sales of both existing and new homes are on track to set new records in 2005, although analysts believe the pace of activity will slow in the second half of this year as mortgage rates move higher.
A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.94 percent, with 15-year mortgages at 5.27 percent and one-year ARMs at 3.67 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.
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