Rates for 30-year U.S. mortgages tumbled to the lowest on record as fears of a blow to the economy from the coronavirus sent investors rushing to the safety of Treasuries.

The average rate was 3.29 per cent, down from 3.45 per cent last week and the lowest in 49 years of data-keeping, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday. The previous low, in November 2012, was 3.31 per cent.

Plunging borrowing costs have set the stage for a spring housing boom and are giving homeowners a fresh opportunity to refinance into cheaper loans. Lenders are staffing up to meet the demand. Quicken Loans Inc., the nation’s largest mortgage lender, said Monday was the busiest day for mortgage applications in the company’s 35-year history.

The spread of the virus has roiled financial markets, hammering stocks and pushing yields for the Treasuries that guide mortgage costs to the lowest on record. The Federal Reserve on Tuesday slashed its benchmark lending rate by half a percentage point in its first emergency move since 2008.

Mortgage rates will probably fall more and then hit a floor, said Matthew Pointon, U.S. property economist at Capital Economics Ltd.

“I don’t think it’s going to go below three per cent,” he said. “Banks already have a surge in demand -- they don’t want to attract new customers.”

At the current average rate, the monthly payment on a US$300,000, 30-year loan would be US$1,312. That’s down from US$1,504 a year ago, when the rate was 4.41 per cent.