After three weeks of declines, fixed mortgage rates moved slightly higher this week.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average edged up to 2.98 percent with an average 0.7 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount and are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 2.97 percent a week ago and 3.23 percent a year ago.

Freddie Mac, the federally chartered mortgage investor, aggregates rates from around 80 lenders across the country to come up with weekly national averages. It uses rates for high-quality borrowers with strong credit scores and large down payments. Because of the criteria, these rates are not available to every borrower.

The survey is based on home purchase mortgages, which means rates for refinances may be higher. The price adjustment for refinance transactions that went into effect in December is adding to the cost. The adjustment, which applies to all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinances, is 0.5 percent of the loan amount. That works out to $1,500 on a $300,000 loan.

The 15-year fixed-rate average rose to 2.31 percent with an average 0.7 point. It was 2.29 percent a week ago and 2.77 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average fell to 2.64 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 2.83 percent a week ago and 3.14 percent a year ago.

“In what was a relatively unremarkable week for mortgage rates, the modest movement was partially driven by discussions about a proposed increase in capital gains tax rates — which placed downward pressure on bond yields and thus rates — and anticipation of a key announcement by the Federal Reserve,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economist.

The Federal Reserve met this week and as expected, left its benchmark interest rate unchanged. The Fed also stated it has no plans at this time to reduce its bond-buying program. For more than a year now, the central bank has been buying at least $120 billion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities each month. Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell, who called the economic recovery “uneven and far from complete,” said it is premature to discuss reducing its bond-buying program or lifting its benchmark rate.

“No one expected policy changes from the Fed, but we always have to focus on the wording,” said Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network in Danvers, Mass. “For now, we’re told there will be no talks of the Fed tapering off its purchases of mortgage assets, which has kept rates artificially low during the pandemic, so we can expect mortgage rates to remain around the same. When the Fed eventually signals it will taper asset purchases, you can expect a knee-jerk rise in interest rates. Typically after that happens, rates usually settle down until they find a range in the middle. But that initial rise will be a shock to everyone who has grown used to the extended low-rate environment.”, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found more than half of the experts it surveyed expect rates to remain about the same in the coming week.

“Another week of little volatility ahead as rates hold steady,” said Gordon Miller, owner of Miller Lending Group in Cary, N.C. “With lenders caught up and now over-staffed, there may be an opportunity ahead for lower rates as margins will thin out.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications diminished last week. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 2.5 percent from a week earlier. The purchase index fell 5 percent from the previous week, and the refinance index slipped 1 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 60.6 percent of applications.

“Demand for buying a home is surging, but record-low inventory and faster price appreciation are preventing sales from being even stronger,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “Purchase applications declined last week, but activity still outpaced year-ago levels. … Mortgage applications to refinance also declined last week, despite mortgage rates falling to a two-month low. Millions of homeowners have already refinanced at even lower rates, which is why activity has recently declined on a weekly and annual basis.”