WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged lower this week.

As rates remain at historically low levels, homeowners taking advantage of the chance to refinance their mortgages have pushed up refinancing activity.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.44 percent from 3.46 percent last week.

The average rate is down from 3.90 percent a year ago, and is close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012.

The 15-year fixed mortgage rate eased to 2.76 percent from 2.77 percent.