Mortgage rates were little changed this week, keeping borrowing costs close to the lowest level since December as the housing market struggles to recover.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan increased to 4.51 percent in the week ended today from 4.5 percent, according to Freddie Mac. The average 15-year rate was unchanged at 3.69 percent, the McLean, Virginia-based company said in a statement.
A drop in mortgage rates from this year’s high of 5.05 percent in February has done little to lift the U.S. housing market. Stricter lending standards, mounting foreclosures and unemployment close to 9 percent are restraining demand for homes even as price declines lure some buyers.
“Housing is still bad, but relative to what people were expecting, it’s more or less on par,” Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said in an interview yesterday. “Basically, lending to homeowners is no riskier this week than it was a week ago.”
Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes rose 8.2 percent in May, following a revised 11 percent drop in the previous month, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday. A separate report by the Chicago-based group on June 21 showed sales of existing houses, which make up about 96 percent of the market, declined in May to a six-month low.
Home prices fell 4 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest drop in 17 months for the S&P/Case-Shiller index of values in 20 cities.
Applications for home-purchase loans decreased 3 percent last week to the lowest level since February, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported yesterday. The Washington-based group’s measure of refinancing slipped 2.6 percent.
The rate for a 30-year fixed loan is below where it was last year at this time, when it averaged 4.58 percent, according to Freddie Mac. It fell to a record 4.17 percent in November.
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