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Average US rate on 30-year loan eases to 4.42 pct.

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mortratesWASHINGTON — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages eased slightly this week, remaining near historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says 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 dipped 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. 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 low.

A government report issued Thursday signaled growing consumer confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season, as November retail sales marked the biggest gain in five months.

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