Mortgage Rates Inch Upward This Week, but Remain Near Record Lows

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Mortgage rates increased for the second straight week, Freddie Mac reported Thursday, but they still remain near record lows.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.49% during the week ending Feb. 20, up two basis points from the previous week. This time last year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.35%, almost a full percentage point higher.

Before the upward movement over the last two weeks comes after mortgage rates had fallen for three consecutive weeks to the lowest level since October 2016.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also increased two basis points over this past week to an average of 2.99%, according to Freddie Mac.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage, meanwhile, decreased three basis points to an average of 3.25%.

The recent drop in mortgage rates has sparked another surge in refinance applications and brought an early start to the spring home-buying season, as Americans look to capitalize on the low-cost debt.

But the low interest-rate environment has done more than just cause an uptick in mortgage applications. It’s also boosted confidence for home-builders. In January, permitting activity for new homes reached its highest level in over a decade.

“This is a good sign for the inventory-starved housing market,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac. The low supply of homes for sale has curtailed real-estate activity in recent months as would-be buyers struggle to find homes to purchase.

Mortgage rates roughly track the direction of long-term bond yields, including the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.

The 10-year Treasury has seesawed over the past month, responding to positive news regarding the U.S. economy and corporate earnings as well the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and the impact a worsening epidemic that might have on the global economy.

On Thursday, the 30-year Treasury neared an all-time low as the coronavirus’ death toll rose outside of China.

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