US average mortgage rates fall again; 30-year loan at 3.04%

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mortgage rates fell for a second straight week amid signs of economic improvement.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the benchmark 30-year home-loan rate declined to 3.04% this week from 3.13% last week. At this time last year, the long-term rate was 3.31%.

The rate for a 15-year loan, popular among those looking to refinance, dipped to 2.35% from to 2.42% last week.

Last week’s decline was the first in more than two months. Mortgage rates have been at historically low levels, but strong demand and low supply of available homes have pushed prices higher in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic has fueled demand for single-family homes as people look for more space.

Experts expect home-loan rates to increase modestly for the rest of the year, while remaining at low levels in light of the Federal Reserve’s stated intention to keep its principal borrowing rate near zero until the economy recovers from the pandemic.

A flurry of key U.S. economic data – on the pace of layoffs, retail sales and manufacturing – point to an economy that is steadily regaining its health as vaccinations accelerate, business restrictions are lifted in many states and Americans are increasingly willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise spend again. At the same time, the pandemic is holding back some areas of the economy, and many lower-income Americans are still suffering.

In another positive economic indication, the Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID low and a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers.

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