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Fixed mortgage rates increase for the fourth week in a row

It wasn’t much of a lift, but fixed mortgage rates moved higher for the fourth straight week.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average climbed to 4.20 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount and are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 4.17 percent a week ago and 4.58 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average ticked up to 3.64 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.62 percent a week ago and 4.02 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slid to 3.77 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.78 percent a week ago and 3.74 percent a year ago.

“Mortgage rates were flat this week, fluctuating only slightly during a quiet week of market-moving economic releases,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economic analyst. “Strong Chinese data drove last week’s rate increases and this week’s subtle rate movements were also mostly driven by international news.”

Data from Europe showed waning confidence in the German and French economies, Speakman added.

Two housing market reports released this week provided mixed messages. March’s new home sales were better than expected, up 4.5 percent from February and above last year’s pace. This came on the heels of disappointing existing home sales, which decreased almost 5 percent in March.

“Although weaker March existing home sales followed muted February pending home sales, March new home sales data continues to show strength,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com. “This trend supports the fact that lower mortgage rates have started to entice buyers this spring and foreshadows a potential strengthening of pending and existing home sales in the months to come.”

After a month of increases, some experts are predicting the rise in mortgage rates may be slowing. Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will go down in the coming week.

“Usually stocks and mortgage rates move in the same direction, i.e., when stocks move up, mortgage rates do, too,” said Shashank Shekhar, CEO of Arcus Lending. “That’s not the case right now. The S&P is hovering at the highest level ever and mortgage rates are trending lower.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications slowed again this week. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index – a measure of total loan application volume – decreased 7.3 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 11 percent from the previous week, while the purchase index dropped 4 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 39.4 percent of all applications.

“Although slightly higher mortgage rates have slowed momentum somewhat in recent weeks, purchase activity was still 3 percent higher than a year ago and has now trended above year-ago levels for 10 straight weeks,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO.

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