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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Fall As Interest Rates Rise
by Tom Moeller  March 30, 2011

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that overall mortgage applications fell 7.5% last week to the lowest level in a month. For March overall, applications rose 12.6% from the February average. Applications to refinance fell 10.1% w/w and were off roughly one-half from the peak last August. Applications to purchase a home fell 1.7% but for the month were at their highest since December, up 5.8% from the low. 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 fell 7.2% last week (-19.9% y/y). Applications for variable-rate financing fell 10.8 (-11.8% y/y) and they were off roughly two-thirds from the September peak.

The effective fixed interest rate on conventional 15-year mortgages rose to 4.41% last week. For 30-year mortgages the rate ticked up to 5.09%. 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.

BA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 3/25/11 3/18/11 3/11/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Total Market Index 485.3 524.4 510.7 -19.5 659.3 736.4 642.9
 Purchase 188.5 191.7 186.6 -22.4 199.8 263.5 345.4
 Refinancing 2,222.5 2,471.2 2,406.3 -17.9 3,348.1 3,509.2 2,394.1
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.41 4.25 4.25 4.57
4.39 4.85 5.88
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