David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images WASHINGTON — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages eased slightly this week, remaining near historically low levels.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.42 percent from 4.46 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan fell to 3.43 percent from 3.47 percent.
Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August and have stabilized since September, when the Federal Reserve surprised markets by taking no action on starting to reduce its bond purchases. The Fed meets next week and could slow the bond purchases if the economy shows further improvement.
The bond purchases are designed to keep long-term rates such as mortgage rates low.
A Commerce Department report issued Thursday signaled growing consumer confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season, as November retail sales rose at the fastest pace in five months.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.