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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rebound With Dip In Interest Rates
by Tom Moeller  February 23, 2011

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that overall mortgage applications rebounded 13.2% last week and recovered most of the prior two weeks' decline. Nevertheless, applications remained near the lowest level since 2008. Applications to refinance a mortgage led the increase with a 17.8% w/w increase but still were off sharply from one year ago. Since August, applications have fallen by more than one-half and were near the lowest level since August 2009. Applications to purchase a home rose 5.1% and recovered the prior week's decline. Nevertheless, applications were down one-third from the 2009 peak.. During the last ten years, there has been a 42% 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 from 61% before 2008.

Applications for fixed interest rate mortgage financing rose 13.8% last week but still remained near the lowest since 2009. Applications for variable-rate financing also rose 4.6% but were off two-thirds from the September peak.

The effective fixed interest rate on conventional 15-year mortgages fell to 4.48% last week, still near the highest since early-June and up from the October low of 3.88%. For 30-year mortgages the rate fell to an average 5.19%. Interest rates on fixed 15-year and 30-year mortgages are closely correlated (near-90%) with the rate on 10-year Treasury securities.

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. The figures for weekly mortgage applications are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

Competition in mortgage markets: The effect of lender type on loan characteristics from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is available here.

BA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 2/18/11 2/11/11 2/4/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Total Market Index 476.0 420.4 464.7 -13.4 659.3 736.4 642.9
 Purchase 184.1 175.1 186.1 -6.5 199.8 263.5 345.4
 Refinancing 2,177.2 1,848.6 2,086.4 -16.4 3,348.1 3,509.2 2,394.1
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.48 4.55 4.54 4.61
(2/10)
4.39 4.85 5.88
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