March 22, 2012 at 10:50 AM ET
Mortgage rates may have finally hit bottom.
The benchmark 30-year rate has risen above 4 percent for the first time since October, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
The average rate for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.08 percent from 3.92 percent, Freddie said. Last year at this time the rate averaged 4.81 percent.
While the Federal Reserve has helped push rates down to record-low levels with an unprecedented easy-money policy, signs of economic growth now are beginning to push long rates higher, said Freddie Mac economist Frank Nothaft.
"Mortgage rates are catching up with increases in U.S. Treasury bond yields," Nothaft said in a statement. He also cited stroong results from bank "stress tests" and a possible additional bailout for Greece.
"Meanwhile, consumers continued to reduce their debt burdens in the fourth quarter of 2011," he said. Debt payments as a share of disposable income are now at the lowest level since 1994.
The 30-year rate hit a record low of 3.87 percent in February and stayed there for three weeks, according to Freddie Mac's survey. The rate is calculated based on an average mortgage "point" fee of 0.8 percent of the loan value.
Mortgage rates are still a bargain, even compared with levels of a year ago. The benchmark 15-year rate is now 3.30 percent, up from 3.16 percent last week, and five-year indexes adjustable-rate mortgages can be had for 2.96 percent, up from 2.79 percent last week. Last year at this time rates were quoted at 4.04 percent and 3.21 percent on those products.