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US mortgage rates have slipped below 3 percent again

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Mortgage rates have once again dipped below 3 percent.

The average for a 30-year fixed loan was 2.99 percent, just off the record low set two weeks ago, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday. Rates had ticked up to 3.01 percent last week.

Mortgage rates started sliding to record lows in March as the Covid-19 outbreak roiled financial markets. The low borrowing costs have pushed more buyers to look for homes, fueling a housing recovery that’s been a bright spot in an economy battered by the pandemic.

The homeownership rate surged in the second quarter to the highest level since 2008, with first-time buyers helping fuel the jump. In June, pending home sales soared 16.6 percent to the highest level since 2006.

Homebuilders, hit hard when the coronavirus shut down the U.S. economy, have been buoyed by the booming housing market. An index that tracks the industry has more than doubled since March and closed at a record high on Wednesday.

Still, risks abound for housing as the economy sputters. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose for the second straight week, while Congress has struggled to reach a deal to extend expanded unemployment benefits.

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