Mortgage rates hold near recent lows, a lonely bit of good news for the housing market

So far this year, the 30-year fixed has averaged 4.54%, up from 3.99% in 2017

Rates for home loans held near two-month lows in the most recent week, another chance for would-be home buyers to get a foot in the door of the troubling housing market.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.81% in the Nov. 29 week, unchanged from the week before, mortgage liquidity provider Freddie Mac said Thursday. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.25%, up one basis point during the week. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 4.12%, up from 4.09%.

Those rates don’t include fees associated with obtaining mortgage loans.

Mortgage rates track the 10-year U.S. Treasury TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.46%  , but with a lag. As concerns about trade agreements and growth have battered stocks, investors have turned to the perceived safety of bonds. Bond yields decline when prices rise, and vice versa.

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Higher rates are taking a bite out of housing market activity by making purchases less affordable. But they’re just as detrimental to the mortgage lending industry. Last week, refinances were at the lowest since 2000, according to data compiled by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

That’s causing big banks like Wells Fargo WFC, +0.26%   and JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPM, +0.11%  , and non-bank lenders like Movement Mortgage and LoanDepot to cut thousands of jobs, according to trade publication reports.

Still, Freddie Chief Economist Sam Khater noted that mortgage purchase applications have increased in recent periods when rates have declined, a sign that “there are buyers on the fence waiting for the right time to buy.”