An important federal program to help consumers who cannot qualify for fixed-rate mortgages is grinding to a halt, just as the housing market is entering its seasonal peak.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development said Friday that its FHA program was about to hit its statutory limit for adjustable-rate loans in fiscal 1998. HUD said adjustable-rate loans with application dates later than today or closing dates later than April 30 will not be insured.

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