WASHINGTON

- Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages rose this week but remained near record lows, a trend that is leading more Americans to buy homes or refinance their loans.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year loan increased to 3.37 percent from 3.32 percent last week. That's just above the 3.31 percent rate of a month ago, the lowest on records dating to 1971.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dipped to 2.65 percent from 2.66 percent last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.

Low rates have spurred home sales and helped spark a modest housing recovery. They have also led more people to refinance, which typically lowers monthly mortgage payments and boosts consumer spending.

In a separate report, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes jumped in November. Last month's sales were the highest since November 2009, when a federal tax credit that was soon to expire spurred purchases. November's sales were the highest since July 2007.