As the summer wound down, mortgage rates stagnated. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate — the most popular home loan product — has barely budged for more than a month.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average crept up to 2.88 percent with an average 0.7 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. They are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 2.87 percent a week ago and 2.86 percent a year ago. Since the 30-year fixed average jumped from 2.77 percent to 2.87 percent in early August, it has essentially held steady the past five weeks.

Freddie Mac, the federally chartered mortgage investor, aggregates rates from around 80 lenders across the country to come up with weekly national averages. The survey is based on home purchase mortgages. Rates for refinances may be different. 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 15-year fixed-rate average ticked up to 2.19 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 2.18 percent a week ago and 2.37 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average edged up to 2.42 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 2.43 percent a week ago and 3.11 percent a year ago.

“Mortgage rates remain at rest, having been at a relative standstill since the middle of June,” said Holden Lewis, home and mortgage specialist at NerdWallet. “When they eventually make a move, they will follow the economy’s trajectory — probably upward. If they move downward, it will be because of a winter resurgence of covid-19.”

Last week’s disappointing employment report had little effect on mortgage rates. The U.S. economy added a lackluster 235,000 jobs in August, falling well below what was forecast and a steep drop-off from June (962,000 jobs added) and July (1.1 million jobs added).

“While the economy continued to add jobs in August, the pace was lower than expected, but the unemployment rate improved nonetheless,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “With little economic data on tap this week, mortgage rates are likely to remain in their holding pattern. However, with inflation a simmering concern, when mortgage rates do begin to move, they will most likely move higher.”

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed mixed on where rates are headed in the coming week. Forty-five percent say they will remain unchanged, 36 percent say they will rise, and 18 percent say they will fall.

James Sahnger, mortgage planner at C2 Financial, predicts rates will hold steady.

“Rates have been pretty consistent since the middle of August and are likely to remain rangebound,” Sahnger said. “From a technical trading perspective, rates continue to trade between the 50-, 100- and 200-day moving averages. As these averages continue to get tighter, rates are setting themselves up for a larger move to either side.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications continued to retreat last week. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — decreased 1.9 percent from a week earlier to its lowest level since mid-July. The refinance index dropped 3 percent, while the purchase index was flat, dipping 0.2 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity was unchanged, accounting for 66.8 percent of applications.

“Mortgage applications fell again last week, with rates still hovering around 3 percent,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “Refinancing has dropped off slightly in recent weeks, and purchase volume also declined due to the lack of housing supply. Overall economic improvements will continue to support the purchase market but could lead to a tapering of [Federal Reserve mortgage-backed security] purchases by the end of the year, which would put some upward pressure on mortgage rates and further dampen refinance applications.”

The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) that showed credit availability increased in August. The MCAI rose 3.9 percent to 123.7 last month. An increase in the MCAI indicates lending standards are loosening, while a decrease signals they are tightening.

“Credit availability increased in August, driven by significant activity across all indexes,” Joel Kan, an MBA economist, said in a statement. “Jumbo credit availability increased 9 percent to its highest level since March 2020, as more [non-qualified mortgage] jumbo and agency-eligible high-balance loan programs were offered. In the conforming space, more lenders offered [government-sponsored enterprise] refinance programs catered to lower-income borrowers to help reduce their rates and payments. There was also a slight expansion in government credit, as more investors offered [streamlined] refinance options for [Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs] loans.”

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