U.S. mortgage rates fell, decreasing borrowing costs for homebuyers as investors weighed whether the economy is strong enough for the Federal Reserve to make more cuts to its stimulus.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.39 percent this week, down from 4.41 percent and the lowest since November, Freddie Mac (FMCC) said today. The average 15-year rate slipped to 3.44 percent from 3.45 percent, the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage-finance company said.
The Fed’s bond purchases have kept borrowing costs at historic lows, bolstering a housing recovery that has also benefited from job growth and a tight supply of properties for sale. While the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in December, the U.S. gained the fewest jobs in two years, Labor Department figures showed on Jan. 10.
“The recent bits of economic news suggest that the economy is not accelerating,” Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, a Riverdale, New Jersey-based mortgage-data firm, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “That does add doubt as to whether the Fed will be removing stimulus as quickly as expected just a few weeks ago.”
Fed policy makers have said they will gradually reduce the pace of bond buying as the economy strengthens. The committee meets next week after deciding in December to cut purchases by $10 billion a month.
Demand for home loans rose for a third week as the drop in rates spurred a pickup in refinancing. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s index of applications to reduce monthly payments advanced 9.9 percent last week, the Washington-based group said yesterday. The purchase gauge declined 3.6 percent from a seven-week high.
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