The median price for a home sold in January was $173,600, a 12.3 percent increase from a year ago. Analysts say purchases would be higher if more homes were available. The supply of homes for sale dropped to nearly an eight-year low in January.

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US consumer prices flat in January for 2nd month

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. consumer prices were flat in January from December for the second month in a row; the latest sign inflation is in check. That could give the Federal Reserve leeway to continue its efforts to stimulate growth.

The consumer price index has risen 1.6 percent in the 12 months ending in January, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's down from a 2.9 percent pace a year ago. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.3 percent in January. Core prices have risen 1.9 percent in the past year, below the Fed's inflation target. That's also down from the 2.3 percent pace in the same month a year ago.

The Fed is purchasing $85 billion in Treasurys and mortgage bonds each month in an effort to keep interest rates low. Last month, some Fed policymakers expressed concern the purchases could eventually cause inflation or disrupt bond markets, according to minutes of the Fed's Jan. 29-30 meeting released Wednesday. But most private economists see little sign that prices are increasing at a troubling rate.

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US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.56 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week but remained near historic lows. Low mortgage rates have helped support the slowly recovering housing market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.56 percent from 3.53 percent last week. That's still near the 3.31 percent reached in November, which was the lowest on record dating to 1971.

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