WASHINGTON (AP) — Average rates on U.S. long-term fixed mortgages remained steady for a second straight week, giving prospective home buyers more time to lock in historically low levels.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan remained unchanged at 4.4 percent this week. That is a full percentage point higher than in early May, when rates neared record lows. Still, rates remain low by historical standards.
The average on the 15-year fixed loan edged up to 3.44 percent from 3.43 percent.
Mortgage rates spiked in June after Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated that the Federal Reserve could slow its bond purchases this year. The purchases have helped keep long-term interest rates low, encouraging more home buying. Despite the recent rate increases, mortgages remain a bargain for borrowers who 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 prices. It also has led to more home construction, which has created jobs.
Confidence among U.S. builders is at its highest level in nearly eight years, fueled by optimism that demand for new homes will drive sales growth into next year. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday reflected the brighter sales outlook.