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U.S. mortgage interest rates rise to highest level since 2006

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Housing construction in Florida

(Reuters) - The average interest rate on the most popular U.S. home loan rose to its highest level since 2006 as the housing sector continued to bear the brunt of tightening financial conditions, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) showed on Wednesday.

Mortgage rates have more than doubled since the beginning of the year as the Federal Reserve pursues an aggressive path of interest rate hikes to bring down stubbornly high inflation.

Those actions, designed to cool the economy sufficiently to curb price pressures, have weighed heavily on the interest-rate-sensitive housing sector as expectations for Fed tightening have led to a surge in Treasury yields. The yield on the 10-year note acts as a benchmark for mortgage rates.

The average contract rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose by 6 basis points to 6.81% for the week ended Oct. 7 while the MBA's Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, fell 2.0% from a week earlier and is down roughly 69% from one year ago.

Its Purchase Index, a measure of all mortgage loan applications for purchase of a single family home, fell 2.1% from the prior week and is 39% lower than a year ago, while MBA's refinance Index declined 1.8% last week and is down 86% from one year ago.

Homebuilding and sales have weakened significantly in recent months, with home resales posting seven straight months of declines. However, home prices remain high even as house price growth slows, eroding affordability for buyers who are still competing due to a shortage of properties for sale.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Bernadette Baum)