US average mortgage rates edge up; 30-year at 4.46 percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. long-term mortgage rates edged up after declining in recent weeks.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.46 percent, from 4.45 percent last week. Despite the recent declines, home borrowing rates are above last year's levels. The key 30-year rate averaged 4.22 percent a year ago.

The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate loans ticked up to 3.89 percent from 3.88 percent.

The recent decline in mortgage rates has been a spur to prospective homebuyers. Sales of new U.S. homes soared 16.9 percent November.

Last year, home sales stumbled as higher borrowing costs eroded affordability.

Increases in home prices have slowed in many areas of the country, and more homes have come on the market. Those developments, along with historically low mortgage rates, should give a boost to this spring's home buying season, Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said.

The Federal Reserve held its benchmark interest rate steady Wednesday and sent its strongest signal to date that it sees no need to raise rates anytime soon. Its message ignited a rally on Wall Street, which cheered the prospect of continued modest borrowing rates for the near future. In recent weeks investors had been sending stock prices lower out of fear that the Fed would act more quickly at the risk of sending the economy into a recession.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose this week to 0.5 point from 0.4 point. The fee on 15-year mortgages held steady at 0.4 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages increased to 3.96 percent from 3.90 percent last week. The fee was unchanged at 0.3 point.

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