Mortgage rates for 30-year loans hold at four-month high

, Bloomberg

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U.S. mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans held at a four-month high as job growth helps fuel demand for housing.

The average 30-year rate was unchanged at 3.53 percent in the week ended Thursday, the highest since Sept. 13, McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac said in a statement. The average 15- year rate dropped to 2.77 percent from 2.81 percent.

U.S. home prices are recovering as buyers compete for a shrinking supply of listings and employment improves. Payrolls increased by 157,000 workers in January following a revised 196,000 gain the prior month and a 247,000 jump in November, Labor Department figures showed Feb. 1.

"The job numbers are good enough to keep the current momentum we have in the housing market," Millan Mulraine, a New York-based economist at TD Securities, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "But for the housing recovery to shift up a gear or two to generate significant economic growth, it will be necessary for employment to accelerate."

U.S. home prices rose 8.3 percent in December from a year earlier, the biggest jump since May 2006, Irvine, California- based CoreLogic reported this week.

The Mortgage Bankers Association's index of home-loan applications climbed 3.4 percent in the week ended Feb. 1, the Washington-based group said Wednesday. The refinance gauge advanced 3.5 percent, and the purchase measure rose 2.2 percent.

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