Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.43 percent this week from 4.40 percent last week. The new average for the benchmark rate is the highest since January 2014. The 30-year rate stood at 4.10 percent a year ago.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans advanced to 3.90 percent from 3.85 percent last week.

Mortgage rates have risen steadily in January and February, as interest rates generally have increased in response to higher levels of government debt and expectations of rising inflation. In addition to discouraging potential home buyers, rising rates also may prompt potential sellers to hold on to their homes, which are financed through lower interest rates.