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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Refinancings Surge as Rates Steady
by Tom Moeller  May 22, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index gained 2.4% (15.4% y/y) during the week ending May 17. The rise was driven by an 8.3% jump (31.1% y/y) in applications to refinance an existing loan, which followed a 0.5% easing during the prior week. Applications to purchase a home declined 2.0% (+4.2% y/y) last week after a 0.6% dip.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage held w/w at 3.88%, compared to a high of 4.71% early in November 2018. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan eased to 4.46% and compared to a November high of 5.33%. The rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage was little changed at 4.34%. The rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage declined sharply w/w to 3.70% compared to a mid-October high of 4.61%.

The average mortgage loan size increased w/w to $337,100 (11.8% y/y) but remained below the record of $381,700 in late-March. For purchases, the average loan size eased to $332,500 (3.8% y/y). The average loan refinancing size rose to $343,900 (28.6% y/y). These series date back to 1990.

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose 16.1% y/y, while adjustable rate loan applications gained 16.0% 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) 5/17/2019 5/10/2019 5/3/2019 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index 2.4 -0.6 2.7 15.4 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
  Purchase -2.0 -0.6 4.2 6.7 2.1 5.6 13.3
  Refinancing 8.3 -0.5 0.8 31.1 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.88 3.89 3.91 4.37 (May '18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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