Average US mortgage rate up for fifth straight week to 6.73%

The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate rose for the fifth straight week to its highest level since breaching 7% in November, just as the spring buying season gets ready to kick off.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the benchmark 30-year rate climbed to 6.73% from 6.65% last week.

The average long-term rate hit 7.08% in the fall — a two-decade high — as the Federal Reserve continued to raise its key lending rate in a bid to cool the economy and quash persistent, four-decade high inflation.

The big rise in mortgage rates has pushed sales of existing homes down for 12 straight months.