WASHINGTON — Rates on 30-year mortgages were unchanged this week but other rates showed declines.

Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported Thursday that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.88 percent this week, where they have been for the past three weeks.

The 30-year rate, which had been at 5.85 percent the week of March 27, edged up slightly to 5.88 percent the following week and has stayed at that level, remaining below the 6 percent level for five straight weeks.

But other rates showed declines, which analysts attributed to rising hopes that the Federal Reserve, responding to weak economic data, will move at the end of this month to cut interest rates again.

"March's housing starts were the lowest since March 1991 and consumer sentiment in April fell to a 26-year low while home builder confidence remains near record lows," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac.

He said these and other statistics suggesting the economy may be in a recession are prompting investors to expect a further rate cut when Fed officials next meet on April 29-30.

Rates on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular choice for refinancing, dipped to 5.40 percent, down from 5.42 percent last week.

Five-year adjustable-rate mortgages dropped slightly to 5.48 percent, down from 5.56 percent last week. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages slipped to 5.10 percent, compared to 5.18 percent last week.

The mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. For 30-year mortgages, the nationwide average fee was 0.4 point while the average fee was 0.5 point for 15-year mortgages. The average fee was 0.6 point for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages and one-year ARMs.

A year ago, rates on 30-year mortgages stood at 6.17 percent, 15-year mortgage rates averaged 5.89 percent, five-year adjustable-rate mortgages were 5.92 percent and one-year adjustable-rate mortgages were at 5.45 percent.

Many economists believe the country has fallen into a recession, something that hasn't occurred since 2001. The country is being hurt by a combination of a prolonged housing slump, a severe credit crisis and now, rising unemployment.