Mortgage rates continued to plumb new depths this week, but demand for purchase loans remains down from a year ago, lender surveys show.

All types of mortgages tracked by Freddie Mac hit new lows during the week ending Jan. 12, the company said in releasing its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, which have been below 4 percent for six weeks in a row, hit a new low this week in records dating to 1971. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.89 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 3.91 percent last week and 4.71 percent a year ago.

For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, rates averaged 3.16 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from 3.23 percent last week and 4.08 percent a year ago. Rates on 15-year loans, popular for refinancing, have never been lower since Freddie Mac began tracking them in 1991.

Rates on five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 2.82 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 2.86 percent last week and 3.72 percent a year ago. That’s a new low in records dating to 2005.

For one-year Treasury-indexed ARM loans, rates averaged 2.76 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 2.8 percent last week and 3.23 percent a year ago.

Freddie Mac’s rate survey is based on loans offered to borrowers with good credit scores making down payments of at least 20 percent. Borrowers with damaged credit or making smaller down payments can expect to pay higher rates.

Looking back a week, a separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed that demand for purchase loans during the week ending Jan. 6 was up a seasonally adjusted 8.1 percent from the week before. Purchase loan demand was down 17.9 percent from the same time a year ago. Requests to refinance accounted for 80.8 percent of all mortgage applications.

Mortgage rates have been sliding because mortgage-backed securities (MBS) — bonds that fund the vast majority of home loans — have been popular with investors seeking a safe haven.

If a recovery takes hold and economic growth accelerates, mortgage rates could rebound. Many analysts don’t see that happening anytime soon.

In a Dec. 20 forecast, economists at Fannie Mae projected rates for fixed-rate mortgages will average 4 percent in 2012 and 4.3 percent in 2013.

The Mortgage Bankers Association forecasts that rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will average 4.2 percent in 2012 before rising to 4.7 percent in 2013. The National Association of Realtors projects rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will hold steady at 4.5 percent in 2012.

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