WASHINGTON — US long-term mortgage rates fell this week amid a steep decline in stock prices.
Continued slides in the stock market and tumbling oil prices have been pushing mortgage rates lower, although home-borrowing rates remain much higher than a year ago. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.75 percent from 4.81 percent last week. The key rate stood at 3.94 percent a year ago.
The rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans declined to 4.21 percent from 4.25 percent the previous week.
The fall in mortgage rates ‘‘is a welcome relief to prospective home buyers who have recently experienced rising rates and rising home prices,’’ Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said.
The plunge in global stock markets, which have been roiled by trade tensions between the US and China, deepened Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 600 points in morning trading, after plummeting some 800 points on Tuesday. US markets were closed Wednesday because of the national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.
Thursday’s broad decline came as news of the arrest of a senior Chinese technology executive overshadowed some positive comments on trade from Beijing, threatening to worsen US-China trade tensions.
With stocks sliding, traders continued to channel money into bonds — a signal that they see weakness in the economy ahead. The yield on the key 10-year Treasury note, which tends to influence mortgage rates, dropped to 2.86 percent Thursday morning from 2.92 percent on Tuesday as bond prices rose.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.
The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.
The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged this week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year mortgages held steady at 0.4 point.
The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.07 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.3 point.