Rates for 30-year home loans edged lower for the second straight week, a report said Thursday, but remained above last year's record lows.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.93 percent this week, down from 4.97 percent a week earlier, mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said.
Rates dropped to a record low of 4.71 percent in early December, pushed down by an aggressive government campaign to reduce consumers' borrowing costs.
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.
Mortgage rates have been at or near record lows due to a $1.25 trillion Federal Reserve program to buy up mortgage securities. That program is scheduled to run out at the end of March, but the Fed has held the door open to extending it if the economy weakens.
Some analysts fear that once the program ends, mortgage rates could spike due to a lack of willing buyers of mortgage investments, hurting the recovery in housing and the overall economy.
But Edward DeMarco, director of the federal agency that regulates Freddie Mac and sibling company Fannie Mae, was optimistic about that the Fed will be able to end its program without a major disruption.
"I do believe that private investors — whether domestic or international — will be stepping in," DeMarco said Thursdat at a forum in Washington. He cited this week's decline in mortgage rates as a positive sign.
This week, the average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.33 percent, down from 4.34 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.
Rates on five-year, adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.12 percent, down from 4.19 percent a week earlier. Rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages fell 4.23 percent from 4.33 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, 0.6 point for 15-year and one-year loans and 0.5 point for five-year loans.
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