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Mortgage rates drop for third straight week

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WASHINGTON (AP) — US long-term mortgage rates fell slightly, marking a third straight week of declines as a continued inducement to purchasers in the spring home-buying season.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage eased from 4.10 percent last week to 4.07 percent. By contrast, the benchmark rate stood at 4.61 percent a year ago.

The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate home loans declined this week from 3.57 percent last week to 3.53 percent.

The continuing US-China trade war kicked into a fevered battle this week as high-level talks between the two sides broke down Friday and the Trump administration slapped new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated on Monday with increased tariffs on $60 billion of US products. That sent stock prices tumbling around the globe; the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 600 points as nervous investors shifted money from volatile stocks to the bond market.

Bond yields fall as prices rise. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which influences mortgage rates, was 2.37 percent late Wednesday, down sharply from 2.48 percent a week earlier. It rose to 2.41 percent Thursday morning.

With mortgage rates at historically low levels and positive economic signs, Freddie Mac is expecting home sales to increase this summer. ‘‘While signals from the financial markets are flashing caution signs, the real economy remains on solid ground with steady job growth and five-decade low unemployment rates,’’ said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac chief economist.

Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures.

The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged this week at 0.5 point. The average fee for the 15-year mortgage held at 0.4 point.The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose from 3.63 percent last week to 3.66 percent. The fee remained at 0.4 point.

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