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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Recover As Interest Rates Ease
by Tom Moeller  January 8, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Index jumped 13.5% (29.9% y/y) in the week ending January 3 after falling 13.2% in the previous week. Applications to refinance a loan surged by one quarter (73.5% y/y) and reversed the prior week's decline. Purchase applications increased 3.0% (3.1% y/y) and added to the previous week's 2.2% rise.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage of 3.42% was the lowest rate since early-October. This remained below its high of 4.71% reached early in November 2018. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan edged down to 4.01%, also a three-month low. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage fell sharply to 3.93%. The rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage declined to 3.26%, its lowest level since September 2017. It was below the 4.5% high in October 2018.

The average mortgage loan size fell sharply to $298,100 (-6.4% y/y) from $303,900 in the previous week. The average loan size for purchases declined to $318,200 (+6.0% y/y) from $325,700. For refinancings, the average loan size eased to $284,000 (-16.4% y/y) from $285,900.

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose by roughly one-third  y/y. Adjustable rate loan applications declined 41.1% 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) 01/03/20 12/27/19 12/20/19 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 13.5 -13.2 -5.3 29.9 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 3.0 2.2 -4.8 3.1 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 24.6 -26.0 -5.1 73.5 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.42 3.44 3.46 4.26 (Jan'19) 3.71 4.35 3.59
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