Fixed-rate mortgages edged up this week from their lowest levels in decades. But few have been able to capitalize on them.
The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.22 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. That's up from 4.15 percent last week, the lowest level on records dating to 1971.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, rose to 3.44 percent. Last week it fell to 3.36 percent,
Mortgage rates typically track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Yields rose this week as investors shifted money back into stocks. The stock markets were more stable after a turbulent stretch. Bond yields rise as their prices fall.
Still, low rates have not been enough to revive the weak housing market. Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell last week to a 15-year low, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
High unemployment and fear that the country may be on the verge of another recession have left many people hesitant to buy a home.
Others can't qualify for the low rates. Their credit is too weak to meet banks' tighter lending standards. Many banks are requiring larger down payments. Some potential homebuyers are stuck in homes that are worth less than the existing mortgage.
Over the past year, the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage has been below 5 percent for all but two weeks. Yet sales remain unhealthy.
Sales of new homes are on pace to finish the year as the lowest on records dating back to 1963. The pace of re-sales is shaping up to be the worst in 14 years.
Home prices haven't fared much better. Since the peak of the housing boom in 2007, homes have lost nearly a third of their value.
The weak housing market has been a drag on the economy. And without more jobs, the housing market is unlikely to recover any time soon.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday of each week.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.07 percent. That's the lowest rate on records dating to January 2005. It was the fourth straight week of record lows for this type of loan.
The average rate for the one-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 2.93 from 2.86 percent. Last week's average was the lowest on records going back to 1984.
The rates do not include extra fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.
The average fees for the 30-year, 15-year and 5-year loans held steady at 0.7 point, 0.6 point and 0.5 point, respectively. The average fee on the one-year adjustable mortgage fell to 0.5 point from 0.7 point.