The Freddie Mac headquarters stands in McLean, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would continue paying all of their profits to the Treasury for the next five years under bipartisan Senate legislation designed to wind down the U.S.-owned mortgage financiers and overhaul the government's role in the housing market. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Mortgage rates held steady this week, pausing ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting and Friday’s employment report.

As expected, the central bank did not raise its benchmark rate when it met earlier this week. The news, however, came too late to influence Freddie Mac’s survey. The government-backed mortgage-backer aggregates current rates weekly from 125 lenders from across the country to come up with a national average mortgage rate.


According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average was unchanged this week at 4.19 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 3.72 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average inched up to 3.41 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.4 percent a week ago and 3.01 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average ticked up slightly to 3.23 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.2 percent a week ago and 2.85 percent a year ago.

“In its first meeting of 2017, the Federal Reserve voted unanimously to maintain their current monetary policy stance, keeping short-term rates unchanged, and maintaining their reinvestments for MBS and longer-term Treasuries,” said Michael Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “Given the continued improvements in the job market and the increases in inflation, we are holding to our forecast of three Fed rate hikes for 2017, with the first hike most likely coming in June, but [it] could happen as early as their next meeting in March.  We also expect that Federal Reserve officials will be talking much more in 2017 about tapering or stopping reinvestments, which could lead to wider mortgage-Treasury spreads.”

A strong jobs report on Friday would signal increased economic growth and likely push rates higher. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that the experts it surveyed were almost evenly split on where rates were headed. Forty percent said they were going up, another 40 percent said they would remain unchanged and the rest said they would fall.

Meanwhile, mortgage applications decreased last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — fell 3.2 percent from last week. The refinance index slipped 1 percent, while the purchase index dropped 6 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 49.4 percent of all applications, the first time refinances have been under 50 percent since July 2015.

Part of the drop in purchase applications was attributed to the Trump administration’s reversal of a cut in FHA mortgage insurance premiums. FHA applications increased after the cut was announced. Following the suspension of the cut, a number of them were withdrawn.