RATES FALL: The average U.S. rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to a record low this week and the rate on the 30-year fixed loan declined. Cheaper mortgages have encouraged more home-buying and refinancing.
THE NUMBERS: The average rate for the 15-year loan slipped to 2.56 percent. That's the lowest on record dating to 1991. It fell from 2.61 percent last week. The rate on the 30-year mortgage declined to 3.35 percent from 3.40 percent. That's near the average rate of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on record dating to 1971.
HOUSING RECOVERY: Low mortgage rates have helped sustain a housing recovery that began last year. Home sales and construction are up from a year ago, and prices are rising in most markets.