WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged lower this week.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.48 percent from 3.50 percent last week. The benchmark rate is down from 3.86 percent a year ago, and is close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012.
The 15-year fixed mortgage rate eased to 2.76 percent from 2.77 percent.
Prices of long-term U.S. Treasury bonds rose, pushing their yields lower, as investors awaited the decision of the Federal Reserve Wednesday on interest rates. The Fed kept its key interest rate unchanged but signaled that it likely will raise rates before year’s end. Long-term mortgage rates tend to track the yield on 10-year Treasury notes.
The yield on the 10-year notes fell to 1.66 percent Wednesday from 1.70 percent a week earlier. It declined further to 1.63 percent Thursday morning.
Though mortgage rates have been at historically low levels, data issued Thursday showed that Americans retreated from home-buying in August, as a worsening inventory shortage appears to be hurting sales and pushing prices higher.
Sales of existing homes slipped 0.9 percent last month to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million, the second straight monthly decline, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Low mortgage rates have combined with an improved job market to bolster demand from possible buyers. But drastically fewer sellers are coming into the market. The number of properties for sale is dwindling despite buyer enthusiasm.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of 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 rose to 0.6 point this week from 0.5 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.5 point.
Rates on adjustable five-year mortgages averaged 2.80 percent, down from 2.82 percent last week. The fee increased to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.