U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week to their lowest level in three months, an inducement to prospective homebuyers in a haltingly recovering market.
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Continued steep declines in the stock market pushed home borrowing rates lower, although they remain much higher than a year ago. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 4.63 percent from to 4.75 percent last week. The key rate stood at 3.93 percent a year ago.
The rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans fell to 4.07 percent from 4.21 percent the previous week.
As mortgage rates have ended the year with declines, prospective buyers have been wading in. Mortgage applications in the week ended Dec. 7 rose 1.6 percent from a week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinance applications increased 2 percent while applications for home purchases were up 3 percent.
After taking sharp losses at the end of last week, stocks have gyrated this week. The hour-to-hour changes reflect investors' nervousness over the health of the global economy. Economic growth is expected to slow next year, and the U.S.-China trade dispute and rising interest rates could make that slowdown more painful.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.
The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.
The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged this week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year mortgages rose to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.
The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.04 percent from 4.07 percent last week. The fee held steady at 0.3 point.