In its report of the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey for last week, Freddie Mac took some credit for the stability in mortgage rates in spite of the turbulence in the subprime market. Those troubles claimed another victim on Monday when New Century Financial finally did what had been expected for two weeks, filed for bankruptcy. New Century joined around two dozen other companies who have filed for such protection in the last six months.

Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist said the liquidity provided by Freddie Mac to the conventional conforming mortgage market has helped keep rates down in spite of concerns about spillovers of the subprime problems.



Nothaft also cited the mixed signals sent by recent reports about the direction of the housing market for stabilizing rates. "The rise in existing home sales in February to a 6.69 million unit pace, the highest level since last April, offered some hope of firming in housing demand. In contrast, February's new home sales fell unexpectedly to 848,000 units, the slowest pace since June 2000, suggesting that more time will be needed before a housing recovery takes place."

Rates reported in the Freddie Mac survey moved little compared to the previous week. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) was unchanged at 6.16 percent with 0.4 point. This was 19 basis points lower than the same week in 2006. The 15-year FRM decreased four basis points to 5.86 percent with average fees and points unchanged at 0.4. Last year at this time the average rate was an even 6 percent.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 5.88 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 5.91 percent. Points and fees decreased from 0.6 to 0.5. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 6.02 percent.

Only the one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs showed a higher rate. The product averaged 5.43 percent this week up from last week when it averaged 5.40 percent. Points, however, decreased from 0.7 to 0.6. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 5.51 percent.

Those lenders surveyed by The Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ended March 30 demonstrated more substantial movement in the interest rates they offered their customers.

The average contract interest rate for a 30-year FRM increased nine basis points to 6.13 percent with points, including the origination fee, decreasing to 1.25 from 1.33. The 15-year FRM also increased from 5.77 percent to 5.85 percent with points decreasing to 1.09 from 1.14.

The average interest rate for one-year ARMS was up three basis points to 5.87 with points unchanged at 0.72. All rates are for 80 percent loan-to-value originations.

Mortgage activity was down 3.2 percent on both a seasonally adjusted and unadjusted basis and, after weeks of double digit improvement over figures of a year ago was only up 5.3 percent compared to the same week last year.

Refinancing accounted for 44.5 percent of all mortgage applications, down from 45.1 percent a week earlier and ARM popularity fell even farther, from 20.2 percent of total applications to 19.2 percent.