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Mortgage rates holding steady

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Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were essentially flat this week, falling two-hundredths of a percent from a week ago to 5.1 percent with an average 0.7 point, Freddie Mac said today. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages -- which averaged 5.68 percent a year ago -- dipped below 5 percent in December to hit a 50-year low. Low rates, combined with double-digit year-over-year home-price declines, helped boost sales of resale homes by 7 percent during December, said Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city composite index registered an 18 percent annual decline through November (see story). The National Association of Realtors this week reported that national home prices were down 15 percent in December from a year ago, and that the supply of existing homes for sale fell 11.7 percent, to 3.68 million. That represents a 9.3-month supply of inventory, down from 11.2 months in November. Freddie Mac said 15-year fixed-r...