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Data

December Sees Sharp Drop in New Home Sales

New home sales fell 7.3 percent in December to 369,000, the sharpest monthly drop in almost two years, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Friday. The monthly drop in sales was the largest since February 2011. Nonetheless, December 2012 sales were up 8.8 percent over December 2011. Sales for September, October, and November were revised higher, with the November sales pace reported as 398,000, up from the originally reported 377,000.

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Mortgage Rates Lift Amid Positive Housing Reports

Positive economic and housing news lifted fixed mortgage rates to their highest level in months this week. According to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) was 3.42 (0.7 point) for the week ending January 24, up from 3.38 percent last week. The last time the average 30-year reading was this high was September 29 of last year, Freddie Mac said. Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist for Freddie Mac, said the rise in fixed rates is unlikely to deter the housing recovery.

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First-Time Jobless Claims Drop to Another 5-Year Low

Unemployment

First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell to another five-year low for the week ending January 19, dropping 5,000 to 330,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists expected claims to increase to 360,000 from the prior week. The previous week's report was unchanged at 365,000, which had been the lowest level since January 2008.

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