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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Applications Jump as Interest Rates Fall
by Gerald D. Cohen  April 3, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index leapt 18.6% (29.8% year-on-year) during the week ending March 29. The volume of applications reached its highest level since October 2016. Applications to purchase a home increased 3.4% (9.6% y/y), while refinance activity soared 38.5% (58.0% y/y).

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.88%, the lowest rate since January 2018. Rates hit a seven-and-a-half year high of 4.71% in early in November and have been on a declining trend since. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan decreased to 4.49%. The rate on a Jumbo 30-year loan moved down to 4.29%, while adjustable 5-year mortgage rates rose to 3.91%.

The average mortgage loan size jumped to a record 381,700 (31.4% y/y). For purchases, the average loan size decreased to $330,200 (+6.4% y/y) from last week's record level of 335,900. The average refinance loan size soared to a record 438,900 (69.5% y/y). Data for all these series go back to 1990.

Applications for fixed-rate loans were up 25.6% y/y, while applications for adjustable-rate loans leapt 89.3% 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) 3/29/2019 3/22/2019 3/15/18 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index 18.6 8.9 1.6 29.8 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
  Purchase 3.4 6.4 0.3 9.6 2.1 5.6 13.3
  Refinancing 38.5 12.4 3.5 58.0 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.88 3.99 4.07 4.22 (Mar '18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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