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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Applications Increase for First Time in Four Weeks
by Gerald D. Cohen  February 20, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index rose 3.6% (-2.0% year-on-year) during the week ending February 15th. After double digit gains in early January, applications had fallen for the previous four weeks. Applications to purchase a home increased 1.7% (-3.2% y/y) following a 9.6% drop. Refinance activity grew 6.4% (-8.3% y/y), more than reversing the previous week's 3.2% decline.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage edged down to 4.15%. Rates hit a seven-and-a-half year high of 4.71% in early in November and have steadily declined since. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan was unchanged at 4.78%. The rate on a Jumbo 30-year loan rose to 4.62%, and declined to 4.09% for adjustable 5-year mortgages.

The average mortgage loan size rose to $317,800 (8.9% y/y). For purchases, the average loan size increased to $323,100 (2.3% y/y). For refinancings, the average loan size grew to $310,400 (18.5% y/y).

Applications for fixed-rate loans declined 3.4% y/y, while applications for adjustable-rate loans increased 16.6% 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.

MBA Mortgage Applications (%, SA) 02/15/19 02/08/19 02/01/19 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index 3.6 -6.9 -2.5 -2.0 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
 Purchase 1.7 -9.6 -4.9 3.2 2.1 5.6 13.3
 Refinancing 6.4 -3.2 0.3 -8.3 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.15 4.16 4.23 4.18 (Feb.'18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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