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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Applications Surge as Interest Rates Decline
by Tom Moeller  January 9, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index jumped 23.5% (-7.0% y/y) during the week ended January 4 following three consecutive weeks of decline. Applications to purchase a home jumped 16.5% (5.2% y/y), also after falling for three straight weeks. Applications to refinance a mortgage increased by roughly one-third w/w, but remained down by nearly one-quarter y/y.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined w/w to 4.25%, down from a 4.71% high early in November. The rate remained above the low of 3.01% averaged in July 2016. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to 4.88%. The rate on a Jumbo 30-year loan eased to 4.60%, and for adjustable 5-year mortgages, the effective interest rate fell to 4.17%.

The average mortgage loan size surged to a record $318,400 (15.4% y/y). For purchases, the average loan size nudged up to $300,300 (-0.1% y/y). For refinancings, the average loan size spiked to $339,800 (33.8% y/y), which was by far a record.

Applications for fixed-rate loans fell 10.4% y/y while applications for adjustable-rate loans surged by more than one-half y/y.

The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. The base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100. The figures for weekly mortgage applications and interest rates are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

The minutes to the latest FOMC meeting can be found here.

MBA Mortgage Applications (%, SA) 01/04/09 12/28/18 12/21/18 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index 23.5 -8.5 -1.4 -7.0 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
 Purchase 16.5 -7.6 -0.7 5.2 2.1 5.6 13.3
 Refinancing 35.3 -10.6 -1.9 -21.5 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.25 4.40 4.43 3.89 (Jan.'18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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