US mortgage rates rose this week for the first time in more than a month, at least a temporary setback for would-be home buyers and a housing market already reeling from more than a year of interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that that average fixed-rate 30-year mortgage edged up to 6.39% from 6.27% the week before. A year ago, the average rate was 5.11%.
The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular with those refinancing their homes, also rose — to 5.76% from 5.54% a week earlier.
The Fed, responding to a surge in inflation that last year hit a four-decade high, has raised its benchmark interest rate nine times in just over a year. Mortgage rates surged — to a two-decade high of 7.08% last fall. But rates had fallen five straight weeks before the upturn this week.
Higher borrowing costs have taken a toll on the housing market. The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that sales of existing US homes fell 2.4% from February to March at an annual rate of 4.44 million — signaling a disappointing start to the spring homebuying season.
Median home prices fell to $375,700 — down 0.9% from a year ago, biggest year-over-year drop since January 2012.
Investment in US housing has dropped for seven straight quarters — including freefalls at an annual rate of 27.1% from July through September and 25.1% from October through December last year.