U.S. 30-year and 15-year mortgage rates either tied or reached record lows in the latest week, according to a survey released on Thursday by Freddie Mac, the second-largest U.S. mortgage finance company.
While rock-bottom rates offer a glimmer of hope for a housing market struggling to find footing in the aftermath of the expiration of popular home buyer tax credits, their impact on home loan demand has been tepid. A weak jobs market and flailing economy continue to weigh on consumer confidence.
Interest rates on U.S. 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, the most widely used loan, averaged 4.32 percent for the week ended September 30, down from the previous week's 4.37 percent and matching a record low set earlier in the month, according to the survey.
Rates were also below their year-ago level of 4.94 percent. Freddie Mac started the survey in April 1971.
Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.75 percent, down from 3.82 percent last week, the lowest since Freddie Mac began surveying this loan type in 1991.
Confidence in the state of the economy fell among consumers and businesses, which led to a decline in long-term bond yields and brought many mortgage rates to record lows this week, Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.
Mortgage rates are linked to yields on Treasuries and yields on mortgage-backed securities.
Ellen Bitton, president and CEO of Park Avenue Mortgage Group in New York, said people are pessimistic.
They think much more cautiously, she said. People like to buy when there is optimism in the market and at home.
We are still in the throes of flushing out the system, she said.
The housing market has been struggling since the expiration of popular home buyer tax credits.
Diane Saatchi, senior vice president at Saunders & Associates in Bridgehampton, New York, said buyer hesitation is profound.
Buyers are looking, but seem to be waiting for more and better as though time is on their side, she said. Unemployment is holding people back. Even those who are securely employed see the rate as indication of trouble ahead if not for them, for the economy in general, she said.
Freddie Mac said rates on 5/1 ARMs, set at a fixed rate for five years and adjustable in each following year, was 3.52 percent, down from 3.54 percent last week, reaching the lowest level since Freddie Mac began tracking this loan type in 2005.
One-year adjustable-rate mortgages were 3.48 percent, up from 3.46 percent last week.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)