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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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Bloomberg BNA Outlook Predicts Moderate Economic Growth in 2013

A strengthening private sector should give the economy a boost in the second half of 2013 after a slow start, according to Bloomberg BNA's annual Economic Outlook. The forecast--a consensus projection from economists at 21 leading financial, consulting, and academic organizations across the country--calls for a temporary slowdown in economic growth in the first half of the year as the country feels the impacts of the payroll tax hike and other major shifts in federal fiscal policy.

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FHFA: Prices Continue Upward Trend in November

Consistent with most industry indices, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported continued gains in its most recent House Price Index. On a seasonally adjusted basis, prices increased 0.6 percent from October to November. This rate matches the previous month's revised index, which was revised from a 0.5 percent increase to a 0.6 percent increase. National home prices have increased 5.6 percent over the 12-month period ending in November, according to FHFA. The current index is 15.2 percent lower than the national peak.

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