(Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)

Mortgage rates fell for the third week in a row, according to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

Mortgage rate chart for May 15

The 30-year fixed-rate average eased down to 4.2 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 4.21 percent a week ago and 3.51 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate has hovered below 4.3 percent in four of the past five weeks.

The 15-year fixed-rate average dropped to its lowest level in six months, falling to 3.29 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 3.32 percent a week ago and 2.69 percent a year ago.

Hybrid adjustable rate mortgages showed little change. The five-year ARM average declined to 3.01 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.05 percent a week ago and 2.62 percent a year ago.

The one-year ARM average held steady at 2.43 percent with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from a week ago.

“Mortgage rates were little changed amid a week of light economic reports,” Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

“These lower than expected rates are welcome news with the spring home buying season underway and may even provide those who haven’t already refinanced possibly a reason to take another look. Of the few releases, advanced retail sales rose 0.1 percent in April, but below the market forecast consensus of a 0.4 percent increase. Also, the Producer Price Index for final demand rose 0.6 percent in April which followed a 0.5 percent boost from the prior month.”

Meanwhile, declining rates caused mortgage applications to pick up for the second week in a row, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The market composite index, a measure of total loan application volume, grew 3.6 percent boosted by refinances. The refinance index jumped 7 percent, while the purchase index declined less than one percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity ticked up to 50 percent of all applications.