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Fixed mortgage rates edge to new record lows

(MoneyWatch) Fixed mortgage rates have dipped to new lows once again, according to the latest data from Freddie Mac. Rates last reached record lows in early October, when a 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.36 percent and a 15-year FRM averaged 2.66 percent.

Rates for the week ending Nov. 15, 2012 are as follows:

  • 30-year FRM averaged 3.34 percent, down from last week's average of 3.40 percent. One year ago, the average for a 30-year FRM was 4.00 percent.
  • 15-year FRM averaged 2.65 percent, down from last week when it averaged 2.69 percent. At this time last year, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.31 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.74 percent, up from last week's average of 2.73 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.97 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.55 percent this week, down from last week when it averaged 2.59 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.98 percent.

"Fixed mortgage rates eased this week to record lows on indicators of higher consumer confidence and lower wholesale prices," said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac, in a press release. "Consumer sentiment rose in November to the highest reading since July 2007 according to the University of Michigan."

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), low rates contributed to housing affordability nationwide, even as prices edged upward in cities across the country. 

"The median price of all new and existing homes sold in the third quarter was $189,000, which was up from $176,000 in last year's third quarter and the strongest number we've seen since the final three months of 2008," NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said in a press release. 

"But at the same time, mortgage rates were at their lowest levels in decades, which kept homes quite affordable. Clearly, for families who qualify for a mortgage at such favorable terms, the outlook is brightening -- but being able to afford a home and getting approved for a mortgage are still two different things in the current marketplace."

The low rates are also an indicator that the housing market is still struggling. With the fiscal cliff looming large and consumer confidence still low despite the increase, it's likely rates will remain low -- and homes will remain affordable -- through the rest of the year.

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