Mortgage rates ease

Demand for purchase loans down 18% from year ago

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Mortgage rates eased this week but the housing market "is struggling to regain traction" even though rates remain near historic lows, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said as the mortgage giant released its weekly rate survey.

Single-family housing starts dipped slightly in January to an annualized pace of 413,000 units, the lowest rate since May 2009, and homebuilder confidence remains near record lows, Nothaft said, citing the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.