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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Dip in 30-year mortgage rates

 •  Hawai'i Real Estate Report

By Jeannine Aversa
Associated Press

WASHINGTON Rates on 30-year mortgages dipped this week, although it was a mixed bag for rates on other home loans.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported yesterday in its weekly survey that rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 6.21 percent for the week ending today. That was down slightly from last week's average rate of 6.22 percent and was the lowest since late October.

"Interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages currently are below the monthly averages set in November and December of 2005," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular choice for refinancing home mortgages, averaged 5.76 percent this week, unchanged from last week.

One-year adjustable rate mortgages, however, edged up to 5.16 percent this week, compared with 5.15 percent last week. Rates on five-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 5.78 percent, down a notch from last week's 5.79 percent.

Movements in mortgage rates were subdued as investors in financial markets which influence the direction of mortgage rates digested minutes of the Federal Reserve's December meeting released Tuesday. The minutes suggested the Fed's nearly two-year rate-raising campaign could be winding down this year.

"Financial markets paused this week, trying to decipher the December minutes ... which seemed to hint that the Fed might slow the pace of rate hikes in 2006. As a result, mortgage rates were little changed this week," Nothaft said.

Although home sales are slowing, they were expected to register their best year ever in 2005. That would come after home sales set record highs in the previous four years. Results for all of 2005 will be released this month.

Home sales are expected to be down this year from last year but should still be respectable, economists predicted. "The slowdown amounts to a tapping of the brakes on a hot market," said David Lereah, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

Home prices are expected to cool, too. David Seiders, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, predicts home prices will rise by 6.5 percent this year, versus the double-digit gains seen previously.

The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Thirty-year and 15-year mortgages each carried an average fee of 0.5 point. Five-year hybrid adjustables and one-year ARMs each had a fee of 0.7 point.

A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.77 percent, 15-year mortgages stood at 5.21 percent, one-year ARMs were at 4.10 percent and five-year ARMs averaged 5.03 percent.

With rates on one-year ARMs going up more over the past year than rates on 30-year mortgages, ARM lending is expected to slow. "Today ARMs account for about 30 percent of new loans. We forecast that share to fall to around 25 percent by the end of 2006," Nothaft said.