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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Ease after Prior Week's Surge
by Carol Stone, CBE  January 22, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Index decreased 1.2% in the January 17 week after the prior week's 30.2% jump; the modest fall in the latest week still left it 51.3% above a year ago. Applications to refinance a loan declined 1.8% w/w (116.3% y/y), following the prior week's 42.7% surge. Purchase applications were down 2.0% w/w (9.3% y/y) after the notable 15.5% advance the week before.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell in the latest week from 3.36% to 3.30% in a fourth consecutive weekly decline, yet again the lowest reading since November 2016. 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 edged lower to 3.95% from 3.96%. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage, however, edged higher to 3.93% from 3.90%. The interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage eased to 3.38% after rising notably in the January 10 week to 3.39% from 3.26% the week before that.

The average mortgage loan size increased 0.4% to $317,400 (+0.9% y/y) after the previous week's 6.0% surge to $316,100. The average loan size for purchases rose 2.2% to $334,000 (+8.3% y/y). The average loan size for refinancings was $307,000, down 0.9% (-4.6% y/y) after the prior week's 9.0% surge to $309,700.

Applications for fixed-rate loans surged 57.5% y/y while applications for adjustable rate loans declined 16.8% y/y in the week ended January 17.

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) 01/17/20 01/10/20 01/03/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -1.2 30.2 13.5 51.3 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -2.0 15.5 3.0 9.3 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -1.8 42.7 24.6 116.3 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.30 3.36 3.42 4.26 (Jan'19) 3.71 4.35 3.59
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