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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Improve As Rates Plumb A New Low
by Tom Moeller  May 9, 2012

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its index of total mortgage applications rose 1.7% w/w to 710.4 (43.1% y/y). Home purchase applications jumped 3.4% w/w (1.1% y/y). Applications to refinance increased 1.3% (64.6% y/y). Fixed interest rate loan applications rose moderately as did variable rate loan applications.

Following the recent rally in the bond market, mortgage interest rates moved lower. The effective rate on fixed-interest, conventional 15-year mortgages fell to a new low of 3.37% and was down from the 4.50% high in February of last year. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan also was down slightly w/w at 4.13%. On a 30-year Jumbo loan the effective rate fell to 4.39%. 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 also slipped to 2.96% and still was down from its 3.93% high during February of last year.

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) 05/04/12 04/27/12 04/20/12 Y/Y % 2011 2010 2009
Total Market Index 710.4 698.2 697.7 43.1 572.3 659.3 736.4
 Purchase 197.1 190.7 185.4 1.1 182.6 199.8 263.5
 Refinancing 3,734.8 3,687.7 3,715.2 64.6 2,858.4 3,348.1 3,509.2
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.37 3.41 3.42 4.06
3.97 4.39 4.85
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