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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Mortgage Applications Slip Again
by Tom Moeller February 24, 2010

The housing market's upturn increasingly looks to have lost steam. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications slipped 8.5% last week for the third week consecutive weekly decline. Nevertheless, it's not all bad news since a late-January jump in applications was not wholly unwound. The February average of applications still is up 8.8% from January.    

For last week, applications to refinance mortgages fell 8.9% and applications to purchase a home fell 7.3%, the third down week. Overall, there has been a downtrend in purchase applications despite an uplift provided by an up-to $8,000 Federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers. During the last ten years there has been a 51% correlation between the y/y change in purchase applications and the change in new plus existing single family home sales. The correlation has lessened recently.

The effective fixed interest rate on conventional 15-year mortgages moved higher again to 4.68%. For the month overall rates have been near the six year low. For 30-year mortgages the rate also ticked up to 5.30% from a November average of 5.06%. Rates reached a high of 5.79% in early-June. Interest rates on fixed 15-year and 30-year mortgages are closely correlated (near-90%) with the rate on 10-year Treasury securities. Rates on adjustable one-year mortgages fell to 6.64% last week from a November average of 6.81%. 

The Mortgage Bankers Association surveys between 20 to 35 of the top lenders in the U.S. housing industry to derive its refinance, purchase and market indexes. The weekly survey covers roughly 50% of all U.S. residential mortgage applications processed each week by mortgage banks, commercial banks and thrifts. Visit the Mortgage Bankers Association site here. The figures for weekly mortgage applications are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

MBA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 02/19/10 02/12/10 02/05/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Total Market Index 549.5 600.5 613.1 -26.1% 736.4 642.9 652.6
  Purchase 196.8 212.3 221.2 -21.4 263.5 345.4 424.9
  Refinancing 2,605.3 2,860.1 2,893.9 -28.0 3,509.2 2,394.1 1,997.9
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.68 4.59 4.57 5.07 (02/09) 4.85 5.9 6.2
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