WASHINGTON >> Average long-term mortgage rates were marginally higher this week as the recovering economy appeared stalled against the backdrop of a wave of new delta variant coronavirus cases. They remained under 3%.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said today that the average rate for a 30-year mortgage edged up to 2.88% from 2.87% last week. That’s very close to where the benchmark rate stood at this time last year, 2.86%. It peaked this year at 3.18% in April. Home loan rates fell in the early summer and then remained steady despite increases in inflation.
The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option for homeowners refinancing their mortgages, ticked up to 2.19% from 2.18% last week.
Concern continues to swirl that the highly contagious delta variant could cause the economic recovery from the pandemic to sputter by reducing employment and dampening consumer spending. The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that U.S. economic activity “downshifted” in July and August, in part because of a pullback in dining out, travel and tourism stemming from concern over the delta variant.
In a positive sign that the economy is so far outrunning the variant, the government reported today that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 310,000, a pandemic low and a sign that the delta variant has yet to bring widespread layoffs. At their current pace, weekly applications for benefits are edging toward their pre-pandemic figure of roughly 225,000.