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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Applications Strengthen As Financing Costs Ease
by Tom Moeller  March 20, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index rose 1.6% (1.8% y/y) during the week ending March 15. Applications to purchase a home improved 0.3% (0.6% y/y), while refinance activity strengthened 3.5%, both m/m and y/y.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 4.07%. It was the lowest level since January of last year and down from November's high of 4.71%. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to 4.67% and the rate on a Jumbo 30-year loan declined to 4.44%. The interest rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage eased to 4.10%.

The average mortgage loan size increased to $321,600 (10.5% y/y). For purchases, the average loan size rose to $325,500 (4.0% y/y). The average refinancing loan size strengthened to $312,500, up by one-quarter y/y.

Applications for fixed-rate loans increased 1.7% y/y, while applications for adjustable-rate loans rose 4.5% 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) 3/15/18 3/8/2019 3/1/2019 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index 1.6 2.3 -2.5 1.8 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
 Purchase 0.3 4.3 -2.6 0.6 2.1 5.6 13.3
 Refinancing 3.5 -0.2 -2.0 3.5 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.07 4.13 4.20 4.22 (Mar '18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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