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U.S. Mortgage Rates Hold Steady

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By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch

RISMEDIA, Oct. 22, 2007-(MarketWatch)-Mortgage rates moved very little and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage didn’t change at all, as economic indicators came in mixed this week, Freddie Mac’s chief economist said late last week.

“While retail sales were stronger in September, consumer confidence fell below market expectations in October. Moreover, both the core consumer price index and producer prices for September remained contained,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, in a news release.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.40% for the week ending Oct. 18, unchanged from the previous week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. The mortgage averaged 6.36% a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.08% this week, up from last week’s 6.06%. The mortgage averaged 6.06% a year ago.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 6.11% for the week, down from last week’s 6.12 %. The ARM also averaged 6.11% a year ago. One-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 5.76%, up from last week’s 5.73%. The ARM averaged 5.57% a year ago. To obtain the rates, the 30-year fixed and the 5-year ARM required payment of an average 0.5 point, while the 15-year fixed and the 1-year ARM required payment of an average 0.6 point. A point is 1% of the mortgage amount, charged as prepaid interest. In his comments, Nothaft pointed out some of the major issues that housing is facing — including high inventories of unsold homes — and the effect the industry is having on the overall economy.

“In his Oct. 15 speech, Fed Chairman [Ben] Bernanke suggested housing would be a ‘significant drag’ on the economy going into the next year. Indeed, inventories of unsold homes remained exceptionally high. And October’s home-builder confidence fell to the lowest level since 1985, when record-keeping began,” Nothaft said.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, at its annual convention this week, also noted housing’s effect on the overall economy. The group is forecasting that the housing slump won’t see an end until at least the third quarter of next year.

In the MBA’s weekly survey released on Wednesday, the group also reported that the 30-year fixed-rate held steady at 6.40% last week, unchanged from the week before. The survey reported that the volume of mortgage applications filed last week rose 0.7%.

Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago.

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