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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Surge on Lower Rates
by Sandy Batten  January 15, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Index jumped 30.2% w/w (49.0% y/y) in the week ending January 10 on top of a 13.5% w/w rise in the previous week. Applications to refinance a loan surged 42.7% w/w (108.5% y/y), adding to the 24.6% w/w jump in the previous week. Purchase applications increased a solid 15.5% w/w (9.1% y/y) following a 3.0% w/w rise in the previous week.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.36%, the third consecutive weekly decline and the lowest reading since November 2016, from 3.42%. This rate has generally fallen from its recent high of 4.71% reached in early November 2018. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan declined to 3.96% from 4.01%. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage fell to 3.90%, also the lowest since November 2016, from 3.93%. In contrast, the interest rate on an adjustable rate 5-year mortgage rose sharply to 3.39% from 3.26% the previous week.

The average mortgage loan size rebounded, rising to $316,100 (-3.7% y/y) after having slumped to $298,100 in the previous week. The average loan size for purchases jumped to $326,900 (+6.8% y/y), more than recovering its decline to $318,200 the previous week. For refinancings, the average loan size surged to $309,700 (-12.3% y/y) from $284,000.

Applications for fixed-rate loans surged 56.7% y/y while applications for adjustable rate loans declined 26.7% y/y in the week ended January 10.

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) 01/10/20 01/03/20 12/27/19 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 30.2 13.5 -13.2 49.0 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 15.5 3.0 2.2 9.1 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 42.7 24.6 -26.0 108.5 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.36 3.42 3.44 4.26 (Jan'19) 3.71 4.35 3.59
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