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ECONOMY

Mortgage rates drop to 50-year low

NEW YORK | Mortgage rates fell for the second straight week to the lowest point in five decades, but many people either don’t qualify for new mortgages or already have taken advantage of the low rates this year.

As a result, the housing market and the broader economy may not benefit much from the lower rates.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.57 percent this week, mortgage company Freddie Mac reported Thursday. That’s down from the previous record low of 4.58 percent set last week.

It’s the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971. The last time rates were lower was in the 1950s, when most long-term home loans lasted just 20 or 25 years.

Rates have fallen over the past two months. Investors, concerned about the European debt crisis, have poured money into the safety of Treasury bonds. Treasury yields have fallen and so have mortgage rates, which tend to track yields on long-term Treasurys.

However, low rates have yet to fuel home sales. The housing market has slowed since federal tax credits for homebuyers expired at the end of April, and the latest decline in mortgage rates is unlikely to boost the market.

CLIMATE

La Nina threatens more Gulf storms

The climate phenomenon known as La Nina appears to be developing, threatening more bad news in the efforts to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

When a La Nina occurs, there tend to be more hurricanes than normal in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions, which include the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that La Nina conditions are likely to develop in July and August.

La Nina is marked by an unusual cooling of the sea surface in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Water temperatures in that area can affect air pressure and winds, resulting in changes in the weather in many parts of the world.

In a La Nina, wind shear is increased over the Pacific and reduced over the Atlantic. Wind shear is the difference in strength of winds at low levels compared with higher-level winds.

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