The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage hovered above its record low for a fifth straight week. Despite the great opportunity, few have the means or stomach to buy or refinance in the depressed housing market.
Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on the 30-year home loan rose slightly to 4 percent from 3.98 percent the week before. Eight weeks ago, it dropped to a record low of 3.94, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 3.30 percent. Eight weeks ago, it too hit a record low of 3.26 percent.
Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks this year. Yet this year could be the worst for home sales in 14 years.
Mortgage rates track the yield on 10-year Treasury note. The yield rose this week after investors, encouraged by central banks' joint effort to ease lending standards, shifted their money into stocks. Treasury yields rise when buying activity decreases.
Low mortgage rates haven't translated into higher home sales. Mortgage applications have dropped over the past few weeks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
High unemployment and scant wage gains have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Many Americans don't want to sink money into a home that could lose value over the next three to four years. And most homeowners who can afford to refinance already have.
The low rates have caused a modest boom in refinancing, but that benefit might be wearing off. Most people who can afford to refinance have already locked in rates below 5 percent.
The average rates don't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
The average fee for the 30-year was unchanged at 0.7 and 15-year fixed mortgages rose from 0.7 to 0.8.
The average rate on the five-year adjustable loan ticked down to 2.90 percent from 2.91 percent. The average rate on the one-year adjustable loan also fell, declining to 2.78 percent from 2.79 percent.
The average fees on the five-year and one-year adjustable loans were unchanged from 0.6.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday of each week.