WASHINGTON – Bank borrowing over the past week from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending program fell to the lowest point since before the credit crisis struck with force in the fall of 2008. The decline provided further evidence that credit markets are improving.

The Fed said banks averaged $104 million in borrowing for the week ending on Wednesday. That was down by $1 million from the average of $105 million for the previous week.

Loans from the central bank’s emergency lending program, known as the discount window, had surged to a high of $110 billion a day during the height of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008.

At the time, banks turned to the Fed as a lender of last resort because their sources of credit were frozen.

The $104 million weekly average was the lowest since the week of March 19, 2008, when the average was $81 million.

With financial and economic conditions improving, the Fed has been winding down its special lending programs.

The largest of these efforts is a $1.25 trillion program to purchase mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an effort to lower mortgage rates and provide a boost to the depressed housing market.

The new report issued Thursday showed that those holdings averaged $1.12 trillion over the past week, up by $7.3 billion from the average for the previous week of $1.11 trillion.

Some economists have worried that mortgage rates would start rising once the Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities end.

But Fed officials have stressed that even after new purchases end, the central bank will be holding a sizable portfolio of these types of securities that will continue to provide support for the mortgage market.

Mortgage finance company Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate for 30-year mortgages rose to 4.75 percent this past week, up slightly from 4.72 percent last week. Both rates were very close to the record low of 4.71 percent in December. That was the lowest rate since Freddie Mac began its weekly survey of mortgage rates in 1971.

The European debt crisis has helped push mortgage rates down in the United States as foreign investors have moved money into the safety of U.S. assets.