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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Loan Applications Ease
by Tom Moeller  August 21, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index slipped 0.9% (+73.1% y/y) during the week ending August 16 following a 21.7% surge during the prior week. Applications to refinance a loan improved 0.4% w/w (180.3% y/y) after a roughly one-third jump during the prior week. Purchase applications declined 3.5% (+5.3% y/y) following a 1.9% increase.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was little changed at 3.39% versus 3.37% in the prior week. It remained near the lowest rate since November 2016 and compared to a high of 4.71% early in November 2018. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to 4.00% from 4.03%, remaining below the November high of 5.33%. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage held steady at 3.95%. It remained below the October peak of 5.09%. The rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage eased to 3.50%.

The average mortgage loan size slipped w/w to $344,700 (+20.5% y/y) and remained below the record of $381,700 in late-March. For purchases, the average loan size was unchanged at $323,500 (6.9% y/y). The average loan size for refinancings fell to $357,400 (+37.7% y/y). These series date back to 1990.

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose by three quarters y/y, while adjustable rate loan applications also gained 75.4% 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) 8/16/2019 8/9/19 8/2/2019 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index -0.9 21.7 5.3 73.1 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
  Purchase -3.5 1.9 -2.0 5.3 2.1 5.6 13.3
  Refinancing 0.4 36.9 11.8 180.3 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.39 3.37 3.47 4.37 (Aug '18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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