After a single week of declining rates, mortgage interest rates returned to the pattern of small incremental increases that has prevailed since mid-December.

The Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey for last week showed the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) had an average contract interest rate of 6.30 percent. This was an increase from the previous week when it averaged 6.28 percent. The 15-year firm moved up one basis point to 6.03 percent. Both FRMs carried points averaging 0.4 compared to 0.3 two weeks ago week.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) which had averaged 5.99 percent the previous week was at 6.01 percent. Points went from 0.4 to 0.5. The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 5.52 percent compared to 5.49 percent but points dropped from 0.7 to 0.6.

According to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, rates changed little in the past week as "there was little new information that would cause any great change. For example, January's retail sales were virtually unchanged from December's level. Further, Fed Chairman Bernanke testified before the Senate committee and forecasted that the economy seemed likely to expand at a moderate pace this year and next with gradual easing in core inflation."

The Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ended February 16 indicated that mortgage rates among its respondents had continued to decline. The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs decreased to 6.19 percent from 6.24 percent with points, including the origination fee, declining substantially from 1.06 to 0.88. The average rate for the 15-year FRM dropped 6 basis points to 5.88 with points again showing a healthy improvement from the consumer's point of view, losing .10 to 1.03.

In the MBA survey only the one-year ARM showed a rate increase and then only a single basis point to 5.81 percent. Points increased from 0.84 to 0.88.

Application volume decreased 5.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from a week earlier and 2.9 percent unadjusted but volume was up 4.1 percent compared with the same week one year earlier.

Refinancing as a share of all mortgage application activity decreased to 44.9 percent from 46.1 percent and adjustable rate mortgages represented 21.1 percent of total applications which was the same share it held a week earlier.