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Mortgage rates increase for fourth time in past 5 weeks
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    WASHINGTON — Rates on 30-year mortgages increased this week for the fourth time in the past five weeks.
    Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported Thursday that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.13 percent this week, up from 6.03 percent last week.
    Rates on 30-year mortgages dropped below the 6 percent threshold in the second week of January and stayed there for six straight weeks as the economic slowdown stirred concerns about a possible recession.
    However, in the past month, bond markets have grown worried about rising inflation pressures that are coming as the economy slows. Bond investors are always on the watch for any hints that inflation pressures could be increasing since higher inflation erodes the value of their fixed-rate bonds.
    The 6.13 percent reading on 30-year mortgages was the highest level since they averaged 6.24 percent two weeks ago. It marked the fourth straight week that 30-year mortgages have been above 6 percent.
    Even with the increase over the past month, housing analysts said mortgage rates remain at attractive levels that should be enough to help the housing industry emerge from its biggest slump in more than two decades.
    Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac, said the combination of reasonable mortgage rates and falling home prices were making homes more affordable. However, other analysts said they did not expect housing to stabilize until the huge backlog of unsold homes is reduced to more manageable levels.
    All categories of mortgages showed declines this week.
    Rates on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular choice for refinancing, rose to 5.60 percent this week, up from 5.47 percent last week.
    For five-year adjustable-rate mortgages, rates rose to 5.58 percent, compared with 5.34 percent last week. And, rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 5.14 percent this week, up from 4.94 percent last week.
    The mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. For 30-year and 15-year mortgages, the nationwide average fee was 0.5 point, while five-year mortgages carried a 0.6 point average fee and one-year mortgages had a 0.7 point average.
    A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages stood at 6.14 percent, 15-year mortgage rates averaged 5.88 percent, five-year adjustable-rate mortgages were 5.90 percent and one-year adjustable-rate mortgages were 5.42 percent.
    Housing has been suffering through a severe slump that has dragged down home prices in many parts of the country. The fallout is hitting both homeowners and the economy at large, raising worries about a possible recession. The downturn in housing is being worsened by a severe credit squeeze as lenders tighten standards in the face of soaring mortgage foreclosures.
    Home foreclosures, which shot up to a record high in the final quarter of last year, are expected to keep rising even with industry and government efforts under way to help people at risk of losing their homes.

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