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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Market Activity Remains Strong
by Tom Moeller  August 1, 2012

The Mortgage Bankers Association index of total mortgage applications rose 0.2% last week (67.3% y/y). The figures are close to the high in this cycle. Applications to refinance have led the gain. Last week, they rose 0.8% w/w and have roughly doubled since last year. Conversely, home purchase applications fell 2.3% last week (-2.0% y/y). Applications for fixed interest rate loans rose 0.3% w/w and were up nearly three-quarters y/y. Variable rate loans slipped 0.6% w/w but increased 1.7% y/y.

The effective rate on fixed-interest, conventional 15-year mortgages rose w/w to 3.22%, still nearly the lowest since the early-1950s and down from the 4.50% high in February of last year. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan rose to 3.90%. On a 30-year Jumbo loan, the effective rate was roughly stable w/w at 4.10%. 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 ticked up to 2.88% and 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) 07/27/12 07/20/12 07/13/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Total Market Index 945.7 943.6 935.4 67.3 572.3 659.3 736.4
 Purchase 182.0 186.2 192.4 -2.0 182.6 199.8 263.5
 Refinancing 5,452.8 5,411.6 5,314.4 96.1 2,858.4 3,348.1 3,509.2
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.22 3.19 3.24 3.92
3.97 4.39 4.85
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