Mortgage Rates Creep Upward

Looking to get a mortgage at historically low rates? The window could be closing.

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It seems the temperature isn't the only thing that's rising this spring. Mortgage rates, which have hovered near historic lows for months, are creeping upward again.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage jumped above 4 percent for the first time since the end of October 2011, according to government mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Experts say the uptick is due to increasingly optimistic projections for economic growth and better-than-expected results in bank stress tests.

While a stronger economy doesn't necessarily mean the demise of low mortgage rates, it will take some serious bad news to get mortgage rates to decline much further, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage information website HSH.com.

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"[N]ascent optimism about the health of the economy may fade given the concerns about higher gasoline prices and still-troubled European markets," he said in a recent post. "However, without the emergence of more downbeat news, it will be difficult for mortgage rates to decline much."

While the increases have been minimal thus far, the specter of rising rates could further ramp up home-buying activity this spring as window shoppers rush to close the deal on a home to take advantage of lower interest rates, experts say.

Still, rates remain well below those seen just a few years ago and below the 4.79 percent level seen last year at this time, which is still a boon for buyers looking to become homeowners this spring.

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley