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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Fall Sharply as Interest Rates Rise
by Tom Moeller  October 23, 2019

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Index declined 11.9% (+53.6% y/y) during the week ending October 18, following a 0.5% improvement in the previous week. Applications to refinance a loan plunged 17.1% w/w (+125.8% y/y) after strong gains in each of the prior three weeks. Purchase applications fell 3.6% (+5.8% y/y), down for the fourth week of the last five.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.48% from 3.40%, its highest level in three weeks. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan rose to 4.13% from 4.02%, but remains well below the November 2018 high of 5.33%. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage rose to 4.04%, but was roughly 100 basis points below October of last year. The rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage eased to 3.42%, down from 4.52% last October.

The average mortgage loan size declined sharply to $312,700 (+6.9% y/y) from $329,900. The average loan size for purchases eased to $329,700 (+6.8% y/y). For refinancings, the average loan size declined sharply to $300,700 (+12.3% y/y), its least since December of last year.

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose 56.4% y/y. Adjustable rate loan applications increased a greatly lessened 4.1% 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 each index 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) 10/18/19 10/11/19 10/04/19 Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Market Index -11.9 0.5 5.2 53.6 -10.4 -17.8 15.6
  Purchase -3.6 -4.1 -0.9 5.8 2.1 5.6 13.3
  Refinancing -17.1 3.6 9.8 125.8 -24.3 -34.0 17.3
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.48 3.40 3.42 4.63 (Oct.'18) 4.35 3.59 3.22
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