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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Fall With Less Refinancing
by Tom Moeller  March 14, 2012

The index of total mortgage applications fell 2.4% last week to 736.5 (+44.2% y/y), down for the fifth consecutive week. Applications to refinance fell 4.1% (+65.0% y/y), down for the fourth straight week. Conversely, applications to purchase a home jumped 4.4% (-0.1% y/y), the third consecutive strong weekly increase. Despite these gains, purchase applications remained nearly two-thirds lower than the peak in late-2007. Applications for fixed rate loans have fallen for several weeks.

The effective rate on fixed-interest, conventional 15-year mortgages held at a low 3.44%. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan also held at 4.18%. On a 30-year Jumbo the effective rate was 4.50%. 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 was 2.94% versus 3.73% last March.

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) 03/19/12 03/02/12 02/24/12 Y/Y % 2011 2010 2009
Total Market Index 736.5 754.4 763.6 44.2 572.3 659.3 736.4
 Purchase 186.5 178.7 175.1 -0.1 182.6 199.8 263.5
 Refinancing 3,971.1 4,141.7 4,225.4 65.0 2,858.4 3,348.1 3,509.2
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.44 3.45 3.46 4.34
3.97 4.39 4.85
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