WASHINGTON – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages have risen for a fourth straight week, remaining slightly above record lows. Cheap mortgages have helped fuel a modest housing recovery this year.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year loans increased to 3.66 percent, up from 3.62 percent the previous week. Four weeks ago, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
The average on 15-year fixed mortgages, a popular refinancing option, edged up to 2.89 percent. That’s up from 2.88 percent a week earlier and from the record low of 2.8 percent four weeks ago.
The availability of low rates has lifted home sales higher this year. Prices also have increased, largely because the supply of homes has shrunk while sales have risen.
Builder confidence is also at its highest level since March 2007, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders.
Still, the housing market has a long way to go to reach a full recovery. The pace of home sales remains well below healthy levels.
Many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger down payments required by banks.
Mortgage rates are low because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weaker U.S. economy and uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis have led investors to buy more Treasury securities, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increase, the yield falls.
To calculate average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday of each week.
The average does not include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.
One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
The average fee for 30-year loans was 0.7 point, up from 0.6 point the previous week. The fee for 15-year loans also increased to 0.7 point from 0.6.