US average mortgage rates fall; 30-year at 4.56 percent

WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, breaking a steady climb that pushed them to their highest levels in seven years.

It was the first decline in four weeks in long-term loan rates amid the peak home buying season. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages was 4.56 percent, down from 4.66 percent last week. The average benchmark rate has been running at its highest levels since May 2011. By contrast, the 30-year rate averaged 3.94 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans dipped to 4.06 percent from 4.15 percent last week.

As tensions mounted over U.S. trade policy and political turmoil in Italy and Spain, prices jumped for long-term U.S. government bonds as investors moved money into lower-risk assets. That depressed the bonds' yields, and mortgage rates followed suit. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond dropped Wednesday to 2.78 percent, its lowest level since early April and the biggest single-day decline since June 24, 2016, the day after Britain's vote to leave the European Union. The key bond's yield recovered to 2.84 percent Thursday morning.

Consumers have appeared to shrug off the recent spikes in mortgage rates, as applications for home loans continued to show gains compared with a year earlier, noted Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

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 fees on 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages were both unchanged at 0.4 percent.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 3.80 percent from 3.87 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.3 percent.

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