Cheap mortgages have helped drive a modest recovery in the weak housing market this year.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.66% from 3.71% last week. It’s the lowest rate since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, declined to 2.95%. That’s down from 2.98% last week and just above the record 2.94% of two weeks ago.
The rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 % since December.
Low rates could provide some help to the economy if more people refinance. When people refinance at lower rates, they pay less on their loans and have more money to spend.
Still, the pace of home sales remains well below healthy levels. Sales of previously occupied homes dipped in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million, although they are up from the same month last year.
Many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger down payments required by banks. Some would-be home buyers are holding off because they fear that home prices could keep falling.
Mortgage rates have been dropping because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis has led investors to buy more Treasury securities, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increase, the yield falls.
And the yield will likely fall even lower now that the Federal Reserve has said it will continue selling short-term Treasury securities and using the proceeds to buy longer-term Treasurys. That goal of the program is to drive long-term interest rates lower to encourage more borrowing and spending.
To calculate average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday each week.
The average does not include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.
The average fee for 30-year loans was 0.7 point, unchanged from last week. The fee for 15-year loans was 0.6 point, down from 0.7.
The average rate on one-year adjustable rate mortgages fell to 2.74% from 2.78% last week. The fee for one-year adjustable rate loans was unchanged at 0.5 point.