WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, benefiting potential homebuyers with the spring buying season underway.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages dipped to 4.40 percent from 4.44 percent last week. The benchmark stood at an average 4.10 percent a year ago.
The decline followed scant movement in long-term rates last week and a months-long stretch of increases in January, February and early March as interest rates generally rose.
The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans declined to 3.87 percent from 3.90 percent last week.
As trade tensions have escalated in recent weeks between the U.S. and China, investors have been switching into safer assets like bonds. That has pushed bond prices higher and suppressed their yields, which move in the opposite direction and tend to influence mortgage rates. The yield on the closely watched 10-year Treasury note fell this week amid trade anxiety, then steadied Wednesday at 2.80 percent, the same as last week. The 10-year note was back up at 2.82 percent Thursday morning.
Reflecting the demand for homes, applications for new mortgages fell 3.3 percent in the week ended March 30 from a week earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.
The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. The fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 0.5 percent, unchanged from last week. The fee on 15-year fixed-rate loans fell to 0.4 percent from 0.5 percent last week.
The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages eased to 3.62 percent from 3.66 percent last week. The fee held steady at 0.4 percent.