Rates on 30-year mortgages climbed this week to their highest level in seven months, a trend that is expected to slow — but not stifle — the nation’s housing market.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac, in its weekly survey of mortgage rates around the country, reported Thursday that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.95 percent for the week ending March 17.
The rate was up from 5.85 percent last week and was the highest since the week ending Aug. 5, when rates averaged 5.99 percent.
Analysts said the recent pickup in mortgage rates reflects concerns in financial markets that high oil prices may touch off inflation. That “kept continued upward pressure on interest rates and helped fuel the rise in mortgage rates for the fifth continuous week,” said Amy Crews Cutts, a Freddie Mac economist.
Even with the recent increases, mortgages rates are still low by historical standards, analysts said.
Freddie Mac is forecasting that rates on 30-year mortgages will rise to around 6.25 percent at the end of the year.
“We will probably see some moderation in the housing sector as mortgage rates slowly rise in the coming months,” Crews Cutts said.
Low mortgage rates have powered sales of both new and existing homes to record highs for four straight years.
Rates on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rose to 5.47 percent this week, up from 5.38 percent last week.
Five-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 5.31 percent this week, up from 5.22 percent last week. These hybrid mortgages have a fixed-rate for five years and then adjust each year after that.
Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages, meanwhile, dipped to 4.20 percent this week, from 4.24 percent last week.
The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Thirty-year mortgages, 15-year mortgages and five-year ARM each carried a fee of 0.7 point. The one-year ARM had a financing fee of 0.8 point.
A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.38 percent, 15-year mortgages were at 4.69 percent and one-year ARMs averaged 3.39 percent. Freddie Mac does not have historical data on the five-year ARM because it began tracking that mortgage this year.
Separately, the share of homeowners who were behind on their mortgage payments in the final quarter of 2004 dropped to 4.23 percent, from 4. 41 percent in the third quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Thursday. The fourth-quarter’s delinquency rate was the lowest since the second quarter of 2000.
The share of mortgages that started foreclosure process, meanwhile, rose to 0.44 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with 0.39 percent in the third quarter.