U.K. Economy Grew 0.5% in Fourth Quarter, Missing Median Estimate of 0.6%

Mortgage Rates for Fixed 30-Year U.S. Loans Rise From Record Low to 3.95%

U.S. mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans increased from the lowest on record as home sales rose amid improved consumer confidence and employment data.

The average rate for a 30-year (NMCMFUS) fixed loan rose to 3.95 percent in the week ended today, from 3.91 percent last week, the lowest in records dating to 1971, Freddie Mac said in a statement. The average 15-year (NMCM15US) rate climbed to 3.24 percent from 3.21 percent, according to the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage- finance company.

New-home sales jumped to a seven-month high in November, figures from the Commerce Department showed Dec. 23. The unemployment rate declined to 8.6 percent last month, the lowest level in more than two years, and confidence among consumers reached an eight-month high in December.

“Low interest rates are a necessary condition to help the housing market but they aren’t sufficient,” Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer at Advisors Capital Management LLC in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, said in an interview before Freddie Mac (FMCC) made the announcement. “We need some other things to happen to help housing. The most important of those is for job growth to continue at a stronger pace.”

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits decreased for the week ended Dec. 17 to the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said last week.

Residential home values, weighed down by foreclosures, fell 3.4 percent in October from a year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller (SPCS20) index of property values in 20 cities.

A measure of contracts (USPHTMOM) to buy previously owned homes increased 7.3 percent in November to the highest level since April 2010 after climbing 10.4 percent the prior month, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Prashant Gopal in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at

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