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Mortgage applications slide, again

U.S. mortgage applications slid again this past week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The association's measure of mortgage loan application volume showed a 2.3 percent decrease on a seasonally adjusted basis from the week, ending Dec. 10. On an unadjusted basis, the association said, the index decreased 2.7 percent compared to the previous week.

The MBA's refinance index decreased 0.7 percent from the previous week; its fifth straight weekly decline. The seasonally adjusted measure of purchasing decreased 5.0 percent from a week earlier.

Despite reports Wednesday indicating the economic recovery is gaining speed, the jobs market and housing remain depressed, complicated by the enormous number of homes in foreclosure.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that Federal Reserve officials said in a statement after their final gathering of 2010 that economic growth is "insufficient to bring down unemployment." The Fed reiterated a plan to expand its stimulus plan.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. factory output grew for the fifth straight month, adding to evidence that manufacturing remains an engine of economic growth. The report said the nation's factories, utilities and mines increased 0.4 percent in November, after falling 0.2 percent in October.

Another report Wednesday indicated consumer prices increased slightly last month as food and energy costs ticked up, but there was little sign of widespread inflation.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1 percent in November, less than the previous month's rise of 0.2 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said. In the past year, prices have moved up only 1.1 percent.

The report shows that the sluggish economy is keeping prices in check. Outside of the food and energy costs, core consumer prices rose 0.1 percent, the first increase in four months.

This story is supplemented with reports from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

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