- 5.23% (30-year fixed)
- 0.45 (average points)
Here's a look at the state of mortgage rates from Bankrate.com's weekly national survey of large banks and thrifts conducted Feb. 9, 2011.
As the causes of the housing slump were debated anew on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, mortgage rates showed a sharp leap this week after several weeks of minor movement, reaching their highest levels since April of last year.
The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.23 percent in Bankrate's latest national survey, a rise of 21 basis points. A basis point is a hundredth of one percent.
Meanwhile, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage shot up by 19 basis points, reaching 4.48 percent.
In the area of adjustable rate mortgages, the popular 5/1 ARM was 17 basis points higher, at 4.01 percent. With a 5/1 ARM, the rate is fixed for five years and adjusted annually thereafter.
The 30-year jumbo mortgage, or generally those for more than $417,000, was at 5.74 percent, a climb of 20 basis points.
The collapse of the housing bubble and the attendant problems in mortgage-backed securities continues to be a major political issue in Washington. Wednesday, the subject was raised anew when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Budget Committee.
Although the Federal Reserve has often been criticized for its perceived role in the housing bubble -- critics say its easy-money policies inflated home prices and contributed to reckless mortgage lending -- Bernanke said his agency has been unfairly maligned.
The bubble in home prices was "far greater than could be explained" by the Fed's interest-rate actions, he said during his testimony. He added that home prices are not responding to the Fed's so-called QE2 program, which is injecting capital into banks in the hope that it will spur lending and boost economic activity, including home sales.
Most analysts believe sustained employment growth is needed for the housing market to recover. However, Bernanke told the House he doesn't foresee that happening soon, even though unemployment has fallen to 9 percent from 9.8 percent in the last two months.
"Although the growth rate of economic activity appears likely to pick up this year, the unemployment rate probably will remain elevated for some time," Bernanke said. He added that "it will be several years before the unemployment rate has returned to a more normal level."
Find out what your monthly mortgage payment could be using Bankrate's mortgage calculator.-- Gregg Fields