Mortgage rates hold near record lows

Fixed mortgage rates held near record lows this week as the markets waited for the Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement following two days of deliberations.

The Freddie Mac survey showed the 30-year, FRM averaged 3.88% for the week ending Thursday, inching down from the prior week’s average of 3.90%. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.78%.

The 15-year FRM, a popular refinancing choice, averaged 3.12%, slightly falling from last week when it averaged 3.13%. A year ago, the average rate for a 15-year FRM was 3.97%.

Five-year, Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 2.85%, up from 2.78% the prior week and down from 3.15% a year earlier.

And one-year, Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 2.74%, declining from last week when they averaged 2.81% and from 3.15% last year.

“The housing market has shown some improvement,” Freddie Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said.

Nothaft noted the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s purchase-only house price index rose at a monthly rate of 0.3% in February. And 12 out of 20 metropolitan areas experienced increases over the month, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller20-city indexes.

“New home sales in March were stronger than the consensus market forecast and February’s sales were revised upwards to the strongest pace in almost two years,” Nothaft said. “However, the Fed’s statement warned that despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector still remains depressed.”

Home loan analytics firm Bankrate, which surveys large banks, reported the 30-year FRM slipped to 4.09% from 4.10%, while the 15-year FRM fell to 3.28% from 3.32%. The 5/1 ARM also fell to 3.03% from 3.05%.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday said U.S. monetary policy was “more or less in the right place” but said the central bank would not hesitate to launch another round of bond purchases if the economy weakens. The Fed’s policy-setting panel reiterated its expectation that interest rates would not rise until late 2014 at the earliest.

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