Fixed mortgage rates slip for the 8th consecutive week

WASHINGTON Ė Fixed mortgage rates have dropped for an eighth consecutive week, but the low rates have done little to boost the depressed housing market.

The average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.49 percent from 4.55 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinance option, slipped to 3.68 percent from 3.74 percent. Both are lows for the year.

Rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year yield has been dropping as investors have snapped up Treasurys over fears that the economy is slowing.

Most people canít take advantage of the low mortgage rates because they canít meet tougher lending requirements. And many who could afford to refinance likely did so last year, when rates fell to their lowest levels in decades.

Sales of new and previously occupied homes rose in April. But sales are well below healthy levels. Thatís because foreclosures have pushed prices down. And many potential buyers are holding off, worried that home prices have yet to hit bottom.

Prices fell in the first three months of this year to the lowest levels since before the housing bust. Prices are expected to keep falling through the year, by as much as 10 percent, economists say.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac collects rates from lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a single day.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.28 percent. The five-year adjustable rate loan hit 3.25 percent in November, the lowest rate on records dating back to 2005.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate loan fell to 2.95 percent. Thatís the lowest on records going back to 1986.

The rates do not include add-on fees, known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

The average fee was 0.7 for both the 30-year and 15-year fixed loans in Freddie Macís survey. The average fee for the five-year ARM and the 1-year ARM was 0.5 point.