Consumer Confidential: Mortgage rates fall; Martha settles suits
--In the market for new digs or a refi? Fixed mortgage rates are at or near record lows. Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.32% this week from 4.39%. The 30-year loan hit a record low of 4.17% in mid-November. The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to a record low of 3.5% from last week's record rate of 3.54%. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weakening U.S. economy has led many investors to shift money from stocks to bonds, which are seen as safer bets. That has pushed Treasury yields to historic lows. In theory, low mortgage rates should provide a boost to the troubled housing market. But rates have been below 5% for nearly two years and haven't helped home sales much. Rates on the 30-year fixed loan were near 6.5% five years ago and higher than 8% in 2000.
--There's been a settlement in lawsuits filed by three people who had parts of fingers snipped off by Martha Stewart lounge chairs sold at Kmart stores. Des Moines attorney Guy Cook says the cases against Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Kmart were settled this week. Cook's clients, a young Kentucky girl, an Illinois college student and a New York woman, claimed the chairs cut off parts of their fingers. Cook argued that the chair's legs are defective and snap forward, "serving as a guillotine" for fingers caught between the chair and the legs. No word from Martha as to whether an end to the lawsuits is a good thing.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: Want this? Mortgage rates are near record lows. Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images