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US rate on 30-year mortgages rises to 3.59 pct.

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May 23, 2013 10:02 AM EST | AP

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

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

The average on the 15-year loan jumped to 2.77 percent. That's up from 2.69 percent last week. The record low of 2.56 percent was hit on May 2.

Cheaper mortgages are a key reason home sales have increased this year. That's helped boost home prices and construction, too.