Fixed mortgage rates eased again this week, according to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

The 30-year fixed-rate average dropped to 3.99 percent with an average 0.5 point, falling below 4 percent for the first time in three weeks. It was 4.01 percent a week ago and 4.22 percent a year ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate average slid to 3.17 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.2 percent a week ago and 3.27 percent a year ago.

Hybrid adjustable rate mortgages were mixed. The five-year ARM average edged down to 3.01 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.02 percent a week ago and 2.95 percent a year ago.

The one-year ARM average climbed to 2.44 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 2.43 percent a week ago.

“Fixed mortgage rates were slightly down as housing starts declined 2.8 percent in October below the upwardly revised September rate,” Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

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“However, building permits increased 4.8 percent in October after a 2.8 percent boost a month earlier. Lastly, industrial production slipped by 0.1 percent in October, below the market consensus forecast.”

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People looking to buy rather than refinance caused mortgage applications to surge this past week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The market composite index, a measure of total loan application volume, increased 4.9 percent. Although the refinance index inched up only 1 percent, the purchase index jumped 12 percent to its highest level since July. It is worth noting that the overall volume of applications remains well below last year’s levels. Still, it is significant that purchase rather than refinance applications are driving the increase. Mortgage applications are an early indicator of future home sales.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 61 percent of all applications.

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