WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week but remained close to record lows. Cheap mortgages have made home buying more affordable and have helped drive a housing recovery.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.40 percent from 3.34 percent last week. That's still near the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage increased to 2.66 percent from 2.64 percent last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.
Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The yield on the note has risen this year from 1.70 percent to 1.89 percent Thursday.
A deal between Congress and the White House to avoid sharp tax increases and a mildly positive employment report for December led investors last week to buy stocks and sell Treasurys. As demand for Treasurys declines, the yield increases.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.66 percent in 2012, the lowest annual average in 65 years, according to Freddie Mac.
Cheaper mortgages are a key reason the housing market began to come back last year. Many economists predict the housing recovery will strengthen in 2013.
Home prices are steadily increasing, which makes consumers feel wealthier and more likely to spend.
Another reason for the housing rebound is that there aren't enough houses for sale. A limited supply has created demand for new construction, which has made builders more confident.