Fixed mortgage rates fell for the fourth week in a row following the release of weaker housing data, according to Freddie Mac, which said lenders were offering 30-year fixed home loans to solid borrowers this week at an average of 4.32%.
The Freddie Mac report was welcome news for potential borrowers who feared rates might rise as the Federal Reserve cuts back on its massive bond-buying program. The 30-year rate averaged 4.52% as the year began and was 4.39% last week.
Lenders were offering 15-year fixed-rate loans at an average of 3.4% early this week, down from 3.44% last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. The start rate also fell for loans that are fixed for five years before becoming variable.
Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, attributed the decline to evidence the booming recovery in the housing markets had slowed down.
Home sales fell 7% in December, a greater decline than most analysts had expected, and a widely watched index of home prices declined slightly in November, the first decrease in a year, Nothaft noted.
Another report Thursday, from the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, found that while national banks eased requirements for most types of loans last year, the tight standards for getting a mortgage were little changed.