Mortgage investors no more, traders move into stocks. Rates rise.

Mortgage investors are switching out of Treasury bonds into stocks, pushing up mortgage rates for the fifth week in a row.

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    Traders work in the 10-Year Treasury Bill Options Pit at the CME Group in Chicago Aug. 10. As mortgage investors switch from Treasury bonds into stocks, mortgage rates are heading higher.
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Rates on fixed mortgages surged for the fifth straight week, reflecting higher yields on long-term Treasurys.

Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.83 percent from 4.61 percent in the previous week. Last month, the rate hit a 40-year low of 4.17 percent.

The average rate on the 15-year loan also increased to 4.17 percent from 3.96 percent. It reached 3.57 percent in November, the lowest level on records dating back to 1991.

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Rates are on the rise after falling for seven months.

Mortgage investors and other bondholders are shifting money out of Treasurys and into stocks. That's largely on the expectation that the tax-cut plan that Congress is set to approve will spur growth and potentially higher inflation.

Yields tend to rise on fears of higher inflation. Mortgage rates track the yields on the 10-year Treasury note.

The sell-off in the 10-year Treasury note is complicating the Federal Reserve's efforts to lower interest rates by buying up $600 billion in Treasurys. Some traders had hoped the central bank would boost the scale of its purchases to keep interest rates down.

The increase in rates already is chilling the housing market. Refinance activity fell last week for the fifth straight week, while the number of people applying for a mortgage to purchase a home dropped 5 percent from the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac collects rates from lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a single day.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 3.77 percent from 3.60 percent. The five-year hit 3.25 percent last month, the lowest rate on records dating back to January 2005.

The average rate on one-year adjustable-rate home loans edged up to 3.35 percent from 3.27 percent.

The rates do not include add-on fees, known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount. The average fee for all mortgages in Freddie Mac's survey was 0.7 point.

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