Mortgage Rates Tick Lower

By Kevin Chiu

Mortgage rates, already at their lowest levels on record, ticked a single basis point lower on the fixed rate 30-year mortgage, according to rates Freddie Mac. The weekly survey showed that the heavily watched mortgage average edged slightly lower to 3.88% to a new all-time record low.

However, the shorter 15-year fixed rate home loan made a similar single basis point move higher to average 3.17%. Rates on both of the fixed rate mortgages have been at their lowest levels in U.S. history for the past three weeks, producing a surge in refinancing activity.

The uptick in refinancing is also attributed to the Obama administration’s newly adopted program to help underwater homeowners refinance mortgages without restrictions regarding loan-to-value levels on homes that have been previously financed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Mixed economic news and concerns over European debt woes plague financial markets, keeping U.S. Treasuries near record low yields of return for investors. The lower rates offered to investors have also acted to keep a lid on mortgage rates.

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Builder confidence showed an improving sign for the U.S. housing market. The new home builder confidence rate rose for the fourth straight month to the highest level since June 2007.

“On the consumer front, retail sales edged up only 0.1% in December, but the Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index continued to climb in January to the highest reading since February 2011,” said Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft.

The 5-year Treasury indexed adjustable rate mortgage averaged 2.82% for the week, which matched last week’s average. The 1-year Treasury ARM saw a tick lower of two basis points from a week ago to reach 2.74%.