The national average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped fairly sharply this week, to 7.2% from 7.36% a week earlier, according to preliminary figures from HSH Associates of Butler, N.J. The points charged by lenders averaged 1.3%, little changed from 1.38% a week ago.

The Washington, D.C., are continued to have the lowest average rates in the country, 7.12%, but was also the highest in points, 1.86%.

The highest rates were in Minneapolis, 7.35%, but lenders in the area were apparently marketing low-fee mortgages aggressively, as points averaged 1.03%.

The national average for 15-year fixed loans was 6.82%, down from 6.9%, while the one-year adjustables averaged 4.4%, down from 4.45%.

Geographic spreads in mortgage rates generally reflect regional differences in the cost of doing business and the secondary market's estimation of prepayment experience and credit. quality for each region.

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