WASHINGTON — U.S. mortgage rates crept slightly higher this week but remain at low levels that could encourage more home-buying.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Wednesday that the average rate on a fixed 30-year mortgage ticked up to 3.68 percent from 3.66 percent the previous week. The average 15-year mortgage was unchanged at 3.15 percent.

Borrowing costs have fallen sharply in the past year, helping lift home sales and construction. The 30-year rate was 4.8 percent at the same time last year, while the 15-year rate was 4.25 percent. Sales of existing homes increased 4.6 percent in October compared with a year ago, while new home sales have soared by more than 30 percent.

Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures.

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