WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- Average fixed mortgage interest rates for long-term contracts fell in the week, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said Thursday.
Rates for 30-year contracts dropped from 3.95 percent to 3.9 percent with 0.8 point for the week. A year earlier, 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.87 percent.
The 15-year fixed rate in the week slipped from 3.19 percent to 3.17 percent with 0.8 point. In the same week of 2011 the average rate for 15-year loans stood at 4.15 percent.
Five-year adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.83 percent for the week with an average 0.7 point, up from last week's rate of 2.8 percent. A year earlier, five-year adjustable rate contracts averaged 3.72 percent.
One year Treasury-indexed adjustable mortgage rates dropped in the week from 2.73 percent to 2.72 percent with 0.6 point. A year ago, rates for these loans averaged 3.23 percent.
Interest rates "bottomed out" in January and February, "which is helping spur the housing market," said Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft.
"For instance, pending existing home sales rose in January to their strongest pace since April 2010," he said. December's figures were also revised higher, Nothaft noted in a statement.
In addition, new residential construction starts in January came in higher than expectations and existing home sales were "at the strongest pace in January since May 2010," Nothaft said.