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Mortgage rates drop to record low

The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has dropped to a record low 3.91 percent, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday.

That's down from last week's 3.94 percent, which matched the previous record low set in the fall, which was the lowest since records began being kept in the 1950s. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was steady at 3.21 percent, also a record.

Rates may be low, but they haven't been able to spur sales for a number of reasons, including stagnant wages and persistently high unemployment.

Housing data has recently been showing some improvement lately. Sales of previously owned homes rose 4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million. That's below the roughly 6 million homes a year that economists say are consistent with a healthy housing market. But it's ahead of 2008's revised sales, now considered the worst in 13 years.

But applications for new mortgages fell last week as low rates were not enough of an incentive to spur demand. There's also a huge glut of foreclosed homes on the market and in the pipeline that continue to depress home prices.

The Freddie Mac benchmark is based on loans that included an average up-front fee of 0.7 percent of the loan's value on a 30-year loan.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Housing market improves, but foreclosures spoil the party