Half of the borrowers who refinanced their mortgages in the first quarter lowered their annual interest rate by at least 20%, according to a quarterly refinancing report Freddie Mac released Thursday.

Despite the tight credit markets, which have made it difficult for many consumers to get approval for a refi, rates for conventional 30-year fixed-rate loans hit 50-year lows during the quarter, averaging 5.06%.

Frank Nothaft, a vice president and chief economist at Freddie, said the average savings from refinancing was about $160 a month on a $200,000 loan.

The report said 58% of prime borrowers who refinanced a conventional mortgage kept the same principal balance or reduced it, versus 45% in the fourth quarter.

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