Mortgage rates hit record lows

The low rates haven't done much to help a housing market burdened with a large inventory of homes for sale — more than a year's worth — and millions in negative equity or in foreclosure or opting to refinance rather than buy. 

The market is likely to continue struggling while unemployment remains high. 

Mortgage applications decreased for the fifth straight week last week behind a drop in refinancing, while purchase applications increased by the most since April after the expiration of a homebuyers' tax credit. 

The purchase index rose 9.3 percent, the second straight weekly rise and the biggest increase since the homebuyers' tax credit expired April 30. The boost was led by a 17.2 percent increase in FHA and conventional purchase applications, the Mortgage Bankers Association said. 

FHA applications are likely up ahead of new requirements — slightly higher credit scores and down payments — that went into effect Oct. 4.