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30-year loans up to 3.59%

– Average rates on fixed mortgages rose for the third straight week, hitting their highest levels since mid-March. Still, mortgage rates remained close to historic lows, a trend that is expected to help sustain the housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for 30-year loans increased to 3.59 percent last week. That’s up from 3.51 percent the previous week and above the rate of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.

The average rate on 15-year loans jumped to 2.77 percent. That’s up from 2.69 percent a week earlier. The record low of 2.56 percent was hit May 2.

Cheaper mortgages are a key reason home sales have increased this year.

In April, sales of previously occupied homes rose at the fastest pace in more than three years, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. And sales of newly built homes jumped to the second-highest rate since July 2008.

Mortgage rates rose sharply this week because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.