NEW YORK -- The average rate on 30-year U.S. home loans fell in the past week to retest record lows, helping stimulate housing demand, Freddie Mac said Thursday.
The most widely used long-term mortgage dropped 0.10 of a percentage point in the week ended Oct. 1 to 4.94%, the lowest since late May, and near the all-time low of 4.78% set in April.
A year ago, before government interventions aimed at cutting borrowing costs to stimulate housing and the economy, the rate was 6.10%.
Freddie Mac started tracking 30-year mortgage rates weekly in 1971.
The 15-year average mortgage rate, which it started tracking in 1991, set a record low of 4.36% in the latest week. A year earlier, this rate was 5.78%.
"Low mortgage rates are helping to stabilize home sales," Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in a statement.
New-home sales in August rose to the highest annualized pace since September 2007, while unsold inventory fell to the lowest since February 1983, he said.
Sales of existing homes declined in August but were at the second-highest pace in almost two years. And home prices, based on the S&P/Case-Shiller indexes, have risen for three straight months through July after plummeting for three years.
Pending home sales gained 6.4% in August in the seventh straight monthly increase, reaching the highest level since March 2007.
The U.S. housing remains depressed despite the recent signs of life and there is growing concern about how the market will hold up if the federal $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit is not extended past November 30.
Home prices on average remain more than 32% below 2006 peaks, and many economists expect further erosion under the weight of rising foreclosures.
Lenders charged an average 0.7 points in fees for 30-year loans, up from 0.6 points the prior week.
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