WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages barely changed this week, hovering near historically low levels.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average for the 30-year loan slipped to 4.51 percent from 4.53 percent last week. The average for the 15-year loan edged up to 3.56 percent from 3.55 percent.
Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since hitting record lows a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases.
Last month, the Fed determined the economy was strong enough to start cutting those monthly purchases by $10 billion. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low.
The rise in mortgage rates has slowed home sales, which have fallen for three straight months.
But overall, 2013 represented the best year for the housing market since the financial crisis. Sales of existing homes should reach 5.1 million for last year, the National Association of Realtors forecasts. That would be up 10 percent from the previous year and the most since 2006. It's still below the 5.5 million generally associated with healthy housing markets.