The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgage loan with a balance of $417,000 or less, increased to 4.68% from 4.56% just a week earlier, with points paid at closing, including origination fees, increasing to 0.42 from 0.39, according to the MBA. The above figures are for loans with loan-to-value ratios of 80%.

"Conforming" mortgage loans are those that can be immediately sold to Fannie Mae ( FNMA) and Freddie Mac ( FNMA). Most banks prefer to stick with confirming loans, as the quick and easy sales to the government-sponsored enterprises usually result in a profit for the lender, with the added -- and incredibly important -- benefit of getting the fixed-rate asset off the books.

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-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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