Mortgage Rates Still at Low Ebb; Low 30-Year Rate Could Give Suffering Housing Market the Boost It Needs; REAL ESTATE AND CONSTRUCTION

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Mortgage Rates Still at Low Ebb; Low 30-Year Rate Could Give Suffering Housing Market the Boost It Needs; REAL ESTATE AND CONSTRUCTION


WASHINGTON - The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage stayed this week at the lowest level on record. Cheap mortgages have helped drive a modest housing recovery and could give the broader economy a jolt at a time when the job market is weak.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average on the 30-year loan was 3.66 percent. That's unchanged from last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.94 percent. That's down from 2.95 percent last week and matches the record-low 2.94 percent reached three weeks ago.

The rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent since December.

Cheap mortgages have provided a lift to the long-suffering housing market. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up from the same time last year. Home prices are rising in most markets. And homebuilders are starting more projects.

The number of people who signed contracts to buy previously occupied homes rose in May, matching the fastest pace in two years, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. That suggests Americans are growing more confident in the market.

Low rates also could provide some help to the economy if more people refinance. When people refinance at lower rates, they pay less interest on their loans and have more money to spend. Many homeowners use the savings on renovations, furniture, appliances and other improvements, which help drive growth.

Still, the pace of home sales remains well below healthy levels. …

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