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Fixed rate mortgages climb slightly

(MoneyWatch) Fixed rate mortgages rose slightly this week, up from the new record lows set at the end of November, according to latest data from Freddie Mac.

Meanwhile adjustable rates mortgages (ARM) dropped slightly, but haven't hit any new lows.

The numbers shifted just tenths of a percent the past two weeks, indicating little change in mortgage rates that have remained low and will likely continue to hover near the bottom for a while.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) hit 3.34 percent this week, up from last week's 3.32 percent and the record low set the week prior of 3.31 percent. The 15-year FRM average also edged higher, hitting 2.67 percent, up from last week's 2.64 percent and the record low of 2.63 percent.

"Mortgage rates were little changed and near record lows this week amid indicators of stronger economic growth and signs of tame inflation," said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac, in a release announcing the new numbers. "Third quarter real GDP growth was revised from an initial report of 2 percent to 2.7 percent, nearly matching the market consensus forecast. Meanwhile, the 12-month growth rate of the core price index of consumer expenditures remained at 1.7 percent in October which is on the low end of the Federal Reserve's projection range for this year."

Nothaft believes the housing market is aiding in this recovery.

"For instance, fixed residential investment added positive growth over the past six consecutive quarters and in the third quarter alone contributed 0.3 percentage points to real GDP growth," Nothaft said. "In addition, residential construction spending was up 3 percent between September and October. And, pending home sales saw a 5.2 percent increase in October to its highest reading since March 2007."

While this crawling economic recovery kept mortgage rates relatively steady, the looming "fiscal cliff" may push any economic growth backward in the beginning of the year and could send mortgage rates tumbling once again, meaning we may not have seen the bottom for mortgage rates yet.

Rates for the week ending Dec. 6 are as follows:

  • 30-year FRM averaged 3.34 percent with an average 0.7 point this week. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.99 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.67 percent with an average 0.6 point. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.27 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.69 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.72 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.93 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.55 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.56. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.80 percent.
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