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Home Mortgage Rates Up A Bit

Rates on 30-year and 15-year mortgages inched up this week, ending a three-week stretch in which these rates had moved down.

Even with the up tick, rates are still sufficiently low to keep the housing market healthy, economists said.

For the week ending Jan. 2, the average rate on 30-year mortgages rose to 5.85 percent this week, up slightly from 5.81 percent last week, Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, reported Wednesday in its weekly nationwide survey of mortgage rates.

Rates on 30-year mortgages dropped to 5.21 percent, the lowest level in more than four decades, in the middle of June. Since then, rates on these benchmark mortgages have bounced up and down.

For 15-year mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rates increased to 5.15 percent this week, up from 5.13 percent the previous week.

Rates for one-year adjustable mortgages, however, averaged 3.72 percent, down slightly from 3.73 percent last week.

A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.85 percent; 15-year mortgages were 5.24 percent and one-year adjustable mortgages stood at 4.06 percent.

The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Each loan type carried an average fee of 0.7 point this week.

The housing market, powered by low mortgage rates, has helped to support the economy throughout 2003. Even though sales of previously owned homes slowed in November, private economists predict home sales will set a record high for all of 2003.

Separately, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America said refinancing accounted for 49.3 percent of all home-mortgage applications filed last week, down from 51.7 percent the previous week. The share of adjustable-rate mortgages, meanwhile, increased to 30.4 percent of all mortgage filings last week, up from 27.8 percent the previous week.

"The savvy home buyer or refinancer has the option of lowering monthly mortgage payments by choosing one of the many ARM products available today," said Amy Crews Cutts, Freddie Mac's deputy chief economist.

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