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Fixed mortgage rates hit lowest levels for 2011

NEW YORK — Fixed mortgage rates have fallen to their lowest levels this year, giving Americans more incentive to buy homes or refinance their loans.

Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.63 percent from 4.71. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 3.82 percent from 3.89 percent. Both are at their lowest points since December. It marked the fourth straight weekly decline.

Rates track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which fell close to its lowest level of the year this week.

Low mortgage rates could boost the struggling housing market, which has dragged on the economy. Home sales are far below healthy levels. Tight lending standards and fear that markets haven’t bottomed out have kept would-be homebuyers away.