Rates remain below 5 percent…

Rates on 30-year mortgages edge up, but remain below 5 percent as Fed prepares exit


WASHINGTON (AP) — Mortgage rates held below the 5 percent threshold for the third straight week as the Federal Reserve prepares to end a program that has kept rates at or near record lows.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage edged up to 4.96 percent this week from 4.95 percent a week earlier, the mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said Thursday.

Rates dropped to a record low of 4.71 percent in December and have hovered around 5 percent since, kept down by the Fed’s $1.25 trillion program to buy up mortgage securities issued by Freddie Mac and sibling company Fannie Mae.

The Fed said this week that this program would end on March 31, as expected. But some analysts fear that once the program ends, mortgage rates could rise. That could weaken the fragile recovery in housing and the overall economy. Still, the Fed has left the door open to extending the program if the economy weakens.

The central bank has been the dominant buyer of mortgage securities over the past year. Without the Fed’s participation, “it may take a few weeks for the market to sort out whether there’s enough demand to soak up the supply,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com.

Freddie Mac collects mortgage rates on Monday through Wednesday of each week from lenders around the country. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a given day, often in line with long-term Treasury bonds.

This week, the average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.33 percent, up from 4.32 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.

Rates on five-year, adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.09 percent, up from 4.05 percent a week earlier. Rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.12 percent from 4.22 percent.

The rates do not include add-on fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

The nationwide fee for loans in Freddie Mac’s survey averaged 0.7 of a point for 30-year loans and 0.6 of a point for the other loans in Freddie Mac’s survey.

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