WASHINGTON (AP) – Mortgage rates around the country crept up this week, although 30-year mortgages still were below the 6 percent level for a fourth straight week, Freddie Mac reported Thursday.

The mortgage giant said that its latest nationwide survey showed that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 5.82 percent for the week ending Aug. 26.

That’s up slightly from the average rate of 5.81 percent last week.

“Mortgage rates were mostly unchanged this week, amid conflicting economic reports as to the strength of the economy,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Rates on 30-year mortgages hit a high this year of 6.34 percent the week of May 13. Since then, rates – while bouncing around – have slowly drifted downward as economic activity cooled in the late spring and early summer.

For 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rates rose to 5.21 percent this week, up from 5.19 percent last week. Rates on one-year adjustable rate mortgages increased to 4.05 percent, compared with 4.01 percent last week.

The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. The 30-year mortgage carried an average 0.7 point fee this week. Fifteen-year and 1-year mortgages each carried an 0.6 point fee.

A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 6.28 percent with 15-year mortgages at 5.60 percent and one-year ARMs at 3.84 percent.

Economic reports released earlier this week showed that sales of both new and previously owned homes fell in July. Even so, analysts believe home sales are still are track to set new record highs for all of 2004.

“Our housing outlook remains positive and forecasts only a gradual rise in mortgage rates in the next few months, indicating another strong year for the housing sector,” Nothaft said.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, meanwhile, said that refinancing accounted for 40.4 percent of all home mortgage applications filed last week, down from 40.7 percent the previous week.

On the Net:

Freddie Mac: http://www.freddiemac.com

AP-ES-08-26-04 1340EDT

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