WASHINGTON - Fixed mortgage rates were mostly unchanged this week, hovering near annual lows.

The average rate on the 30-year loan rose slightly to 4.51 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. It hit its lowest level of the year three weeks ago, at 4.49 percent.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, stayed at 3.69 percent. It reached its low point of the year two weeks ago, at 3.67 percent.

Across Long Island fixed mortgage rates fell, slightly. According to a report prepared for Newsday by HSH Associates and published June 29, the 30-year fixed rate was at 4.61 percent, down from 4.63 percent the week previous. The 15-year fixed rate was  4.04 percent, down from 4.08 the week before. The one-year adjustable rate was 3.92 percent, down from 4.17 percent the week before. (Click here to link to HSH.com.)

All rates could change this week when the Federal Reserve's $600 billion bond buying program ends.

The Fed has purchased around $75 billion worth of bonds each month since November. That drove the yield on the 10-year Treasury note lower than 3 percent this spring. As a result, rates on mortgages and other loans also fell.

Still, low mortgage rates and plummeting home prices have done little to boost the troubled housing market. Tougher lending standards and bigger down payment requirements have prevented many people from taking advantage of the ultra-low rates. Many people who can qualify are holding off, worried that prices have yet to bottom out.

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Fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in May. Sales fell to their lowest level of the year. Since the housing market went bust in 2006, sales have fallen in four of the past five years and hit a 13-year low last year.

New-home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 319,000 homes. That's fewer than half the 700,000 that economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that the housing market is dragging down the broader economy. For the market to recover, he said foreclosures must be cleared from the pipeline of homes for sale.

Most economists say home prices will keep falling through the rest of the year. Many forecasts don't anticipate a rebound in prices until at least 2013.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac collects rates from lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a single day.

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The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell from 3.25 percent to 3.22 percent, the lowest rate on records dating back to 2005. The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate loan fell to 2.97 percent, slightly above the record low of 2.95 percent.

The rates do not include the extra fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

The average fees for the 30-year and 15-year fixed loans were 0.7, according to Freddie Mac's survey. The average fees for the five-year and one-year ARM were 0.6.