The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.29% this week, the lowest ever recorded by Freddie Mac in a series that goes back to 1971.
The rate fell 16 basis points from the prior week after the worst stock retreat since the 2008 financial crisis sent investors piling into the bond markets. The yield on 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for mortgage investors, fell to a record low this week as money managers sought safe havens amid coronavirus fears.
Falling mortgage rates have boosted mortgage applications, a sign the housing market may help the U.S. economy stave off a recession, said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
“Mortgage applications increased 10 percent last week from one year ago and show no signs of slowing down,” said Khater. “Given these strong indicators in rates and sales, as well as recent increases in new construction, it’s clear the housing market continues to be a positive force for the broader economy.”
In addition to making home purchases more affordable as the housing market enters its spring selling season, falling rates are spurring more Americans to refinance, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That will lower their monthly bills and give them more money for the consumer spending that accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy.
Conventional refinance applications jumped more than 30% last week, Mike Fratantoni, MBA chief economist, said in a report on Wednesday.
Mortgage rates are falling “amidst increasing concerns regarding the economic impact from the spread of the coronavirus, as well as the tremendous financial market volatility,” Fratantoni said. “Refinance demand jumped as a result.”
In addition to a drop in the 30-year fixed, other rates dropped as well, according to the Freddie Mac survey. The 15-year fixed rate averaged 2.79%, down from 2.95% last week.
The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.18%, down from last week’s rate of 3.20%.
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