The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped 12 basis points this week from last week, to 5.03%, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The average had dipped to 4.96% on the week of Jan. 15; that rate was the lowest since the McLean, Va., government-sponsored enterprise began keeping track.

This week's drop was "relatively small," said Donald Rissmiller, the chief economist at Strategas Research Partners LLC in New York. "It's not hurting anything, but it's not a silver bullet."

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