Mortgage rates are now the lowest they have been since the 1950s.

Unfortunately, the low rates also come at a time when unemployment is high and credit scores are low.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to 4.69 percent last week; rates for 15- and 5-year mortgages also hit record lows.

Realtors are hoping the new low rates goose the market like the homeowner tax credit did earlier this year, but analysts are not giving them much reason for hope:

“As long as prospective homebuyers are still concerned about their jobs and financial well-being, many will be reluctant to take the plunge, even though affordability has never been better,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with

Rates have fallen over the past two months as investors have become nervous about Europe’s debt crisis and the global economy and have shifted money into safe Treasury bonds. The demand has caused Treasury yields to fall. Mortgage rates track those yields.

While mortgages are getting cheaper, low interest rates hurt Americans who are trying to save. Puny rates for savings accounts and CDs are especially hard on people who are living on fixed incomes and earning next to nothing on their money.

Americans normally rush to refinance when rates plummet. But refinancing activity now amounts to less than half the level of early 2009, when long-term rates hovered around 5 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Read the entire article from the San Francisco Chronicle here.

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