Fixed mortgage rates moved lower for first time in 2018.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.44 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.46 percent a week ago and 4.3 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.9 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.94 percent a week ago and 3.5 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average rose to 3.67 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.63 percent a week ago and 3.28 percent a year ago.

“After holding steady for much of the week — even through Friday’s exceptionally strong jobs report — rates fell for the first time this year after inflation data reported Tuesday were weaker than anticipated, and news of the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prompted some financial market flight to safety,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “Beyond the continued risk of geopolitical developments, the Fed is expected to raise short-term interest rates at next Wednesday’s [Federal Open Market Committee] meeting. The press conference following the meeting will be Chairman Powell’s first since taking over in mid-February and markets will study the FOMC’s quarterly forecasts for signals about the committee’s unspoken monetary policy leanings.”

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Shashank Shekhar, CEO of Arcus Lending, is one who expects rates to hold steady.

“Rates went up too quickly at the beginning of the year and are now simply taking a pause,” Shekhar said. “Mortgage Backed Securities, the trading of which directly influences the rate, seems to be agnostic even to big personnel changes in the White House and Britain’s action against Russia. It would take something even more dramatic and unexpected for the mortgage rates to move by a big margin either way, up or down.”

Meanwhile, mortgage applications were flat again last week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — increased 0.9 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 2 percent, while the purchase index rose 3 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 40.1 percent of all applications, its lowest level since September 2008.

“Although the purchase market continues to be constrained by a lack of supply, applications for home purchase loans increased 3 percent last week to the highest level in over a month, as demographic and economic conditions remain favorable for housing demand,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “Refinance activity remains weak as rates have increased in essentially every week of 2018 thus far, reducing the benefit of a refinance for those borrowers currently in the market.”

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