U.S. Mortgage Rates Rise From a 20-Month Low

Mortgage rates in the U.S. jumped from a 20-month low as the job market gained momentum.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.69 percent, up from from 3.59 percent last week and the highest since early January, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday. The average 15-year rate climbed to 2.99 percent from 2.92 percent, the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage-finance company said.

Borrowing costs tracked an increase in yields for 10-year Treasuries, which rose the most in more than a year and a half last week after the Labor Department reported job gains for January that were greater than economists expected.

“To pray for lower interest rates is to hope for some economic malaise,” Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, a Riverdale, New Jersey-based mortgage-data company, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “The reality is we’re probably better off if the rates are up” and the economy is strengthening.

Low mortgage rates and employment growth have helped stimulate the housing market. Sales of previously owned single-family homes and condominiums climbed 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to a 5.07 million annual pace, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

The median price for an existing single-family home was $208,700 in the fourth quarter, up 6 percent from a year earlier, the group said.

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