Ahead of the Bell: Weekly mortgage rates

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Loan buyer Freddie Mac reports Thursday on whether mortgage rates are continuing to hold near recent low rates.

Last week the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage held steady at 3.55 percent, slightly above the record low of 3.49 percent that was reached in July. Meanwhile, the average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, dipped to 2.85 percent from 2.86 percent.

Cheap mortgages have helped the housing market recover this year. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are well above last year's levels.

Home prices are increasing more consistently this year, largely because the supply of homes has shrunk while sales have risen. And the number of Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth declined in the second quarter.

Still, the housing market has a long way back. Home sales are below healthy levels. And many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can't afford larger down payments required by banks.

The report is expected at 10 a.m. Eastern.