|WASHINGTON -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages barely changed this week, giving prospective homebuyers time to lock in relatively low rates.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan edged up to 4.40 percent from 4.39 percent last week. The rate is a full percentage point higher than in early May, when rates neared record lows. But rates remain low by historical standards.
The average on the 15-year fixed loan was unchanged at 3.43 percent.
Mortgage rates spiked in June after Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated the Federal Reserve could slow its bond purchases later this year. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low, encouraging more borrowing and spending.
Despite the recent rate increases, mortgages remain a bargain for those who can qualify. Low rates have boosted home sales and prices, contributing to a housing recovery that has helped drive economic growth this year.
Greater demand, along with a tight supply of homes for sale, has pushed up home prices. It also has led to more home construction, which has created more jobs.
Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which also had jumped recently on speculation that the Fed could slow its bond-buying stimulus. The rate on the 10-year note fell to 2.60 percent Wednesday from 2.64 percent late Tuesday.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday 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 unchanged at 0.7 point. The fee for a 15-year loan also held steady at 0.7 point.
The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage declined to 2.62 percent from 2.64 percent. The fee slipped to 0.3 point from 0.4 point.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage edged up to 3.19 percent from 3.18 percent. The fee declined to 0.5 point from 0.6.