Average U.S. 30-Year Mortgage Rises to 4.48%

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Mortgage Rates
Matt York/AP
WASHINGTON -- Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages crept higher this week but remained low by historical standards.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 4.48 percent from 4.47 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.52 percent from 3.51 percent.

Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August on expectations that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion-a-month in bond purchases. Those purchases push mortgage and other long-term rates lower and encourage borrowing and spending. On Dec. 18, the Fed finally decided the economy was strong enough to allow it to reduce the monthly purchases by $10 billion.

Mortgage rates are sharply higher than they were a year ago when the 30-year fixed rate was 3.35 percent and the 15-year was 2.65 percent.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that new-home sales fell 2.1 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted 464,000. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%But stronger figures for the previous three months suggested that housing may be regaining strength after a summer lull.

The National Association of Realtors said last week that the number of people who bought existing homes in November fell for a third straight month. Higher rates and the lingering effects of the partial government shutdown in October may have deterred some sales.

Still, the government said builders broke ground on homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million homes and apartments in November. That was the fastest pace since February 2008 and was 23 percent higher than in October.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country 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 0.7 point. The fee for a 15-year loan was 0.7 point.
  • The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage slipped to 2.56 percent from 2.57 percent last week. The fee was 0.5 point.
  • The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage rose to 3 percent from 2.96 percent. The fee was 0.4 point.
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Average U.S. 30-Year Mortgage Rises to 4.48%
The gross domestic product measures the level of economic activity within a country. To figure the number, the Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the total consumption of goods and services by private individuals and businesses; the total investment in capital for producing goods and services; the total amount spent and consumed by federal, state, and local government entities; and total net exports. It's important, because it serves as the primary gauge of whether the economy is growing or not. Most economists define a recession as two or more consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP.
The CPI measures current price levels for the goods and services that Americans buy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects price data on a basket of different items, ranging from necessities like food, clothing and housing to more discretionary expenses like eating out and entertainment. The resulting figure is then compared to those of previous months to determine the inflation rate, which is used in a variety of ways, including cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other government benefits.
The unemployment rate measures the percentage of workers within the total labor force who don't have a job, but who have looked for work in the past four weeks, and who are available to work. Those temporarily laid off from their jobs are also included as unemployed. Yet as critical as the figure is as a measure of how many people are out of work and therefore suffering financial hardship from a lack of a paycheck, one key item to note about the unemployment rate is that the number does not reflect workers who have stopped looking for work entirely. It's therefore important to look beyond the headline numbers to see whether the overall workforce is growing or shrinking.
The trade deficit measures the difference between the value of a nation's imported and exported goods. When exports exceed imports, a country runs a trade surplus. But in the U.S., imports have exceeded exports consistently for decades. The figure is important as a measure of U.S. competitiveness in the global market, as well as the nation's dependence on foreign countries.
Each month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis measures changes in the total amount of income that the U.S. population earns, as well as the total amount they spend on goods and services. But there's a reason we've combined them on one slide: In addition to being useful statistics separately for gauging Americans' earning power and spending activity, looking at those numbers in combination gives you a sense of how much people are saving for their future.
Consumers play a vital role in powering the overall economy, and so measures of how confident they are about the economy's prospects are important in predicting its future health. The Conference Board does a survey asking consumers to give their assessment of both current and future economic conditions, with questions about business and employment conditions as well as expected future family income.
The health of the housing market is closely tied to the overall direction of the broader economy. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, named for economists Karl Case and Robert Shiller, provides a way to measure home prices, allowing comparisons not just across time but also among different markets in cities and regions of the nation. The number is important not just to home builders and home buyers, but to the millions of people with jobs related to housing and construction.
Most economic data provides a backward-looking view of what has already happened to the economy. But the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index attempts to gauge the future. To do so, the index looks at data on employment, manufacturing, home construction, consumer sentiment, and the stock and bond markets to put together a complete picture of expected economic conditions ahead.
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