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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Fall Further With Interest Rates
by Tom Moeller  September 5, 2012

It seems odd, but fewer mortgage applications are accompanying falling interest rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association index of total mortgage applications fell another 2.5% last week (+27.5% y/y), the fifth straight week of sharp decline. Applications have fallen 18.6% from the June high. Applications to refinance fell 3.0% w/w and by nearly one quarter during the last five weeks. Home purchase applications slipped 0.8% last week and they're down 13.2% from the June high. Applications for fixed interest rate loans have risen by nearly one-third y/y as lower mortgage rates are locked in. Conversely, variable rate loan applications have fallen 19.5% y/y.

The effective rate on fixed-interest, conventional 15-year mortgages fell w/w to 3.19% compared to 3.47% in January. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan fell back to 3.89%. On a 30-year Jumbo loan, the effective rate declined to 4.14%. 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 slipped to 2.77% 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) 08/31/12 08/24/12 08/17/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Total Market Index 766.1 786.1 821.3 27.5 572.3 659.3 736.4
 Purchase 178.4 179.9 177.4 11.8 182.6 199.8 263.5
 Refinancing 4,216.0 4,346.2 4,609.9 33.0 2,858.4 3,348.1 3,509.2
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.19 3.23 3.26 3.76
3.97 4.39 4.85
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