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Rate on 30-year mortgage declines to 3.51 pct.

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 9:12 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages moved closer to historic lows this week, a trend that has helped drive a rebound in home sales.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage declined to 3.51 percent from 3.56 percent last week. That's near the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 2.76 percent from 2.77 last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.

The lowest mortgage rates in decades have helped the housing market recover. More people are buying homes, which has pushed up home prices. And ultra-low rates have encouraged more people to refinance, which often lowers monthly mortgage payments and leaves consumers with more spending money.

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