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Mortgage Rates Tick Lower

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By Steve Kerch

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2007-(MarketWatch)-U.S. mortgage rates edged slightly lower in the week ending Thursday, with the national average on the benchmark 30-year fixed loan ticking down to 6.16% from 6.17% a week ago, Freddie Mac said its weekly rate survey showed.

"Recent economic data releases showing weaker existing home sales in March, coupled with lower consumer confidence in April, caused the market to pause and re-evaluate the potential growth of the economy this year," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. "This allowed all mortgage rates to decline slightly this week."

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, a popular choice for refinancing, averaged 5.87% versus 5.89% a week ago. Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 5.88%, down from 5.92% and one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 5.43%, off from 5.45%.

The 30-year and 15-year loans required the payment of an average 0.5 point to achieve the rate; the hybrid and the ARM needed 0.7 point. A point is 1% of the loan amount, charged as prepaid interest.

"Thus far this year, mortgage rates have remained relatively stable," Nothaft said. He noted that fixed rate mortgages have remained with a range of 0.20 percentage points this year, while ARMs have moved with just a 0.15 percentage point range.

The rate environment didn't do much for sales of existing homes in March, which recorded their biggest drop in 18 years.

New-home sales, however, were able to rebound last month.

Mortgage applications were also up slightly in the latest week, as rates in a separate Mortgage Bankers Association survey showed a more pronounced drop.

Home prices, on the other hand, continued to skid in most major U.S. cities.

Steve Kerch is assistant managing editor and personal finance editor of MarketWatch in Chicago.

For more information, visit www.marketwatch.com.

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