Mortgage rates continued tumbling, as Freddie Mac reported today that interest on 30-year loans averaged 5.14 percent this week, the lowest point since it began tracking in 1971.

That was down from 5.19 percent last week, itself a new low point. A year ago, rates stood at 6.17 percent. Rates have fallen for the past eight weeks as evidence of the economy's problems has accumulated.

At 5.14 percent, the monthly principal and interest payment on a $200,000 loan is $1,091. That's $130 a month less than the same loan would have cost at last year's rates.

The low rates have been a bright spot amid a torrent of downbeat economic and housing news. Homeowners have rushed to refinance their loans to cut costs or switch from adjustable-rate mortgages to fixed-rate loans. Last week, mortgage applications jumped to the highest level in five years, according to a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

More than 80 percent of those were applications were for refinancing, but the association also measured an 11 percent increase in applications for home purchase loans.

The 30-year mortgage rates as stated in Freddie Mac's survey include 0.8 points. A point is an upfront financing charge equal to 1 percent of the mortgage.

Freddie Mac also reported that 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.91 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.92 percent. That's the lowest since April 2004.

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