US mortgage rates remain low as home-buying season starts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates stayed near 2016 lows this week, potentially good news for the housing market as the spring home-buying season begins.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 3.59 percent from 3.58 percent last week. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 2.85 percent, lowest since May 2013, and down from 2.86 percent last week.

The rate on five-year adjustable rate mortgages slipped to 2.81 percent from 2.84 percent last week.

Mortgage rates are lower than they were in mid-December when the Federal Reserve raised short-term rates for the first time since 2006. The Fed hike was expected to be the first of several and would push mortgage and other rates higher. Instead, weakness in the global economy has helped keep rates low.

A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage rate stood at 3.65 percent and the 15-year was at 2.92 percent.

The spring house-shopping season has gotten off to a solid start. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes rose 5.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million. The low rates have made it easier for buyers to afford homes.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was 0.6 point, up from 0.5 last week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.5 point. The fee on five-year mortgages rose to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.

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