Rates on 30-year mortgages fell for a second consecutive week, but analysts still believe the future direction will be up as the Federal Reserve keeps tightening credit to keep inflation under control.

Freddie Mac reported in its weekly survey Thursday that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.26 percent this week, down from 6.28 percent last week. Rates for 30-year mortgages hit 6.37 percent three weeks ago, the highest level in more than two years. Analysts attributed the two weekly declines to market uncertainty over the economy.

"Mortgage rates are in a holding pattern at the moment as financial markets try to discern where inflation and growth in the economy are headed," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "Until the market decides these issues, mortgage rates should stay within a relatively narrow band."

Most analysts believe that the fall in rates will be only temporary as the Federal Reserve Board keeps pushing short-term rates higher to slow the economy enough so that a surge in energy prices this year does not spill over into more widespread inflation problems.

Rates on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular choice for refinancing a home mortgage, averaged 5.81 percent this week, unchanged from last week.

One-year adjustable-rate mortgages edged up to 5.16 percent after having fallen to 5.14 percent last week.

Rates on five-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 5.76 percent this week, up slightly from 5.75 percent last week.

The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Thirty-year and 15-year mortgages each carried a nationwide average fee of 0.5 point; one-year ARMs had a 0.8 point fee and five-year hybrid ARMs carried a fee of 0.6 point.

A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.81 percent, 15-year mortgages were at 5.23 percent and one-year ARMs averaged 4.19 percent. Freddie Mac does not have historical data on the five-year ARM, which it began tracking this year.

MORTGAGES . . . Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to increase by about 16 percent the limit on the size of single-family-home mortgages they will buy next year.

The new 2006 loan ceiling will be $417,000, up from $359,650 this year, the Washington-based Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said this week. The government requires the federally chartered mortgage financiers to base annual increases for their maximum loan size according to a formula based on house price changes.

Interest rates on such loans are generally lower than on larger loans, called jumbo loans, that the companies are not allowed to purchase.

Loan limits for 2006 will also be raised on other types of properties. For two-family homes, the limit will be $533,850, up from $460,400; for three-family properties, it will be $645,300, up from $556,500; and for four-family properties, it will be $801,950, up from $691,600.

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