Rates for 30-year home loans fell to a shade below 5 percent this week but remained above last month's record lows.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.99 percent, down from 5.06 percent a week earlier, mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday.
It was the third-straight weekly decline. The drop comes after interest rates fell in the bond market this week as concerns about the economy increased demand for the safety of government debt, which is closely tied to mortgage rates.
Freddie Mac collects mortgage rates on Monday through Wednesday of each week from lenders around the country. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a given day, often in line with long-term Treasury bonds.
Rates for 30-year loans had dropped to a record low of 4.71 percent in early December, pushed down by an aggressive government campaign to reduce consumers' borrowing costs.
The Federal Reserve is pumping $1.25 trillion into mortgage-backed securities to try to bring down mortgage rates, but that money is set to run out next spring. The goal of the program is to make home buying more affordable and prop up the housing market.
While it's possible that the program could be extended, analysts believe the Fed is reluctant to do so.
The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.4 percent, down from 4.45 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.
Rates on five-year, adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.27 percent, down from 4.32 percent a week earlier. Rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages dropped to 4.32 percent from 4.39 percent.
The rates do not include add-on fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.
The nationwide fee for loans in Freddie Mac's survey averaged 0.7 point for 30-year loans and 0.6 point for 15-year, five-year and one-year loans.
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