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Mortgage rates edge lower

Rates on U.S. 30- and 15-year fixed mortgages fell slightly this week ahead of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspans's testimony, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said  Thursday.
30-year fixed mortgage rates chart
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Rates on U.S. 30- and 15-year fixed mortgages fell slightly this week even ahead of the full impact of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's congressional testimony, mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said  Thursday.

Freddie Mac said U.S. 30-year mortgage rates stood at an average of 5.66 percent this week, down slightly from 5.72 percent the prior week. Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 4.96 percent compared with 5.03 percent last week, while the one-year adjustable rate fell to 3.57 percent from 3.61 percent last week.

Most of the survey results came before Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress this week the central bank "can be patient" before raising interest rates because of "substantial" slack in the economy. The comments triggered a stock market rally, signaling to Wall Street that the central bank will not raise short-term interest rates for months.

The Fed has kept the overnight bank-lending rate at 1 percent since last June and has not raised interest rates since 2000.

“Markets remained tame while waiting for Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan’s semi-annual testimony to House members about the state of the economy,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist.

“Greenspan led the markets to believe that the Fed’s actions would be on hold until there was more than sufficient growth in the economy to warrant a change in monetary policy," Nothaft said in a statement.  “As a result, mortgage rates not only experienced no upward pressure this week, rates even eased slightly. And since we don’t see mortgage rates rising to more than about 6.25 percent at best this year we expect housing will continue to contribute significantly to consumer spending, which is the largest element of the national economy.”

A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.86 percent, 15-year mortgages 5.26 percent and the one-year ARM 3.89 percent.

Freddie Mac said lenders charged an average "point" fee of 0.7 percent of the loan value on both fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages.

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.