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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Applications Increase Again as Interest Rates Fall
by Sandy Batten  February 27, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index rose 5.3% w/w (0.5% y/y) during the week ended February 22 after having risen 3.6% w/w in the previous week. The increases of the past two weeks followed four consecutive weekly declines. Applications to purchase a home were up 6.1% (3.2% y/y), the largest weekly gain since the week of January 11. Applications to refinance a mortgage rose 4.6% w/w but were down 3.0% from a year earlier.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage eased 5 basis points to 4.10% in the week ended February 22, the lowest level since the week ended February 2, 2018. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan edged down to 4.77% from 4.78% the previous week. The rate on a Jumbo 30-year loan slumped 13 basis points to 4.49%, while the adjustable 5-year mortgage rate edged up 1 basis point to 4.10%, its first weekly increase in five weeks.

The average mortgage loan size rose for the second consecutive week to $319,000 (+9.5% y/y). For purchases, the average loan size fell to $321,500 (+2.1% y/y). For refinancings, the average loan size jumped up to $315,400 (+22.2% y/y).

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose 5.8% w/w and were down just 0.2% from a year earlier, their strongest y/y performance since April. Applications for adjustable-rate loans edged up 0.6% w/w and were up 9.8% from a year earlier.

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) 2/22/2019 2/15/2019 2/8/2019 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index 5.3 3.6 -6.9 0.5 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
 Purchase 6.1 1.7 -9.6 3.2 2.1 5.6 13.3
 Refinancing 4.6 6.4 -3.2 -3.0 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.10 4.15 4.16 4.16 (Feb.'18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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