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Mortgage Rates (Still) at Record Lows

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Mortgage rates remain at record lows. Rates have been pressured for weeks -- a good thing for those who are trying to refinance and are fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of them -- with no sign of change.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked slightly down to another record low, 3.78 percent, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged from last week at 3.04 percent.

[Click here to find mortgage rates in your area.]

It's been a constant debate between the housing bulls and bears as to whether the bottom is in and if (and at what pace) things are starting to perk up. There have been a few interesting twists. For one, the effects of the European debt crisis on Treasury and mortgage rates cannot be ignored.

"Continuing negative developments in the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, particularly in Greece and Spain, as well as the recent French elections, which have shifted political power in a manner that will likely show less support for European austerity, helped push the US 10 Year Treasury yield below 1.7 percent last week," said Michael Fratantoni, the Mortgage Bankers Association's Vice President of Research and Economics.

Despite -- or perhaps thanks to -- rates, there are some glimmers of growth. As our economics editor, Daniel Gross, mentioned in a column Wednesday, the data this week -- earnings from luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers, new home sales, and existing homes sales -- all "suggest a housing recovery may be in the making."

[Here's  a snapshot of existing home sales and median home prices]

The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that mortgage application volume increased 3.8 percent last week from a week earlier, much due to refinancing demand.  The Refinance Index increased 5.6% from the previous week, marking the third consecutive weekly increase in the Refinance Index, which is at its highest level since February 10, 2012.

The process has been slow and frustrating for many, though (see the comments on previous mortgage rate stories), due to bank backlog and other issues.

On a positive note, earlier this month, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported the combined percentage of loans in foreclosure or at least one payment past due was 11.33 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis -- the lowest since 2008. That marks a 120 basis point decrease from last quarter and is 98 basis points lower than a year ago.

Next week: The housing data -- and the debate -- will pick back up after the long weekend with the release of the Case Shiller 20-city index on Tuesday, followed by pending home sales and mortgage applications on Wednesday, and mortgage rates again on Thursday.

What are you seeing in your area? Have you been able to refinance at a better rate? Let us know in the comment section below.