Mortgage rates fell slightly this week, with Freddie Mac’s 30-year benchmark falling below 6 percent for the first time in eight weeks.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Mortgage rates fell slightly this week, according to the latest survey from Freddie Mac, providing more support for a housing market that has shown no sign of slowing down.

Thirty-year mortgage rates averaged 5.98 percent this week, down from 6.01 percent last week, the mortgage giant said. Buyers paid an average “point” fee of 0.6 percent of the loan.

It marked the first time in eight weeks that the 30-year benchmark fell below 6 percent.

Amy Crews-Cutt, deputy chief economist for Freddie Mac, said rates fell because bond market investors were reassured by last week’s Federal Reserve announcement that short-term rates are unlikely to be raised before next year. Mortgage rates are tied to the market for U.S. Treasury securities.

“The housing market is still very hot due to still-low interest rates,” she said. “Recent home sales and housing starts numbers are off the charts and will set another big record in 2003.”

Indeed, figures released Thursday showed that sales of both new and existing homes surged in August, partly because of buyers who took advantage of record-low mortgage rates in June, or made deals shortly afterward when mortgage rates began rising.

Sales of previously owned homes rose 5.5 percent to a record annual pace 6.47 million units, up from 6.13 million the month before. Sales of new single-family homes rose 3.4 to an annual rate of 1.15 million from 1.11 million in July.

Both figures exceeded expectations.

Fifteen-year mortgages were unchanged this week at an average of 5.30 percent with a 0.5 point fee, compared with 5.41 percent a year ago.

One-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 3.77 percent from 3.81 percent last week and 4.22 percent a year ago.

A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.99 percent.

The Fed last week opted to keep interest rates at 45-year lows and said rates could remain low for “a considerable period.”

Freddie Mac is a mortgage finance company chartered by Congress that buys mortgages from lenders and packages them into securities for investors or holds them in its own portfolio.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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