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Mortgage rates scraping the bottom

Fixed mortgage rates remain unchanged from last week, hovering at record lows for the third consecutive week, according to Freddie Mac's (FMCC) latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS). This is the eleventh week the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has been below 4 percent.

Freddie Mac's average 30-year FRM has been below 5 percent for 52 weeks, dating back to the Feb. 17, 2011, release of the PMMS.

Fixed mortgage rates remain unchanged. Yet that may not mean much to consumers struggling to decipher the mixed signals being emitted by the U.S. economy.

"Small business confidence ticked up slightly in January, representing a fourth consecutive month again, according to the National Federation of Independent Business index," said Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft in a statement. "However, the Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment fell in February by more than the market consensus forecast, breaking a five-month trend. In the meantime, homebuilder confidence rose in February to the highest reading since May 2007, based on the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index."

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Rates for this week are as follows:

-- Thirty-year FRM rates were unchanged from last week, at 3.87 percent for the week ending Feb. 16. At this time last year, the 30-year FRM averaged five percent.

-- Fifteen-year FRM rates averaged 3.16 percent, matching last week's average. The 15-year FRM a year ago averaged 4.27 percent.

-- Rates this week on a five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.82 percent, essentially flat compared with last week's average of 2.83 percent. That's lower than this time last year, when rates stood at 3.87 percent.

-- One-year Treasury-indexed ARM rates averaged 2.84 percent, up from last week's average of 2.78 percent. A year ago, the one-year ARM averaged 3.39 percent.

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Many would-be homeowners are putting off locking in a mortgage because they expect rates to fall even further. If mortgage rates stabilize at their current lows, consumers may feel more confident about jumping into the housing market and locking in a low rate.

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