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At the start of the year, it looked like mortgage rates were headed nowhere but up. But lately, they have backslid.

According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 2.96 percent with an average 0.6 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. They are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 2.98 percent a week ago and 3.26 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed average has dropped in four of the past five weeks.