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Long-term mortgage rates hit new lows

WASHINGTON >> U.S. long-term mortgage rates declined this week to new record lows for the first week of 2021.

The year opens against the continuing backdrop of damage from the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. and global economies, which suppressed home loan rates through most of 2020.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan slipped to 2.65% from 2.67% from last week. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.64% a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans, popular among homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages, ticked down to 2.16% from 2.17%.

Mortgage rates are set to rise modestly this year as economic factors shift, according to Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater. The record-low lending rates have helped push buyers into the housing market, but a lack of available homes has left many would-be homebuyers empty-handed. The lack of supply has pushed prices up even before the pandemic struck last March.

A continued rise in home prices could intensify the squeeze on potential purchasers during the spring homebuying season, Khater says.

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