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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications & Interest Rates Trend Sideways
by Tom Moeller  January 11, 2012

The index of total mortgage applications rose 4.5% last week to 663.1 (March 16, 1990 = 100). The increase followed the prior week's 4.1% decline and the index has moved irregularly sideways since October. Applications to refinance rose 3.3% (60.4% y/y) and made up a 2.5% decline during the prior week. They remained up by two-thirds y/y. Applications to purchase a home rose 8.1% and made up most of the prior week's decline. Despite the weekly gain, applications remain off by two-thirds from the 2005 high. As borrowers seek to lock in low financing costs, applications for fixed-rate loan financing have risen sharply since the Spring. Applications for variable rate mortgages moved sideways.

The effective rate on fixed-interest, conventional 15-year mortgages held at its prior low of 3.49%. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan also was constant at  4.23%. On a 30-year Jumbo the effective rate fell to a new low of 4.47%. Though it's narrowed slightly of late, the spread between 15- and 30-year loan rates continued wide by historical standards. The effective interest rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage fell to 3.08% from 3.14% averaged during December.

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.

MBA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 01/06/12 12/30/11 12/23/11 Y/Y % 2011 2010 2009
Total Market Index 663.1 634.5 661.4 37.4 572.3 659.3 736.4
 Purchase 177.1 163.9 181.4 -8.0 182.6 199.8 263.5
 Refinancing 3,560.6 3,448.3 3,516.8 60.4 2,858.4 3,348.1 3,509.2
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.49 3.50 3.65 4.40
3.97 4.39 4.85
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