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Washington — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged slightly lower this week after two straight weeks of sharp increases. Expectations persist that the Federal Reserve may soon raise its key short-term interest rate.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 3.97 percent from 3.98 percent a week earlier. The key 30-year rate was close to its level of a year ago, 3.99 percent.

The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 3.18 percent from 3.20 percent.

While it kept the key rate at a record low near zero, the Fed recently signaled the possibility a rate hike could come at its next meeting in December.

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