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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Surge as Interest Rates Ease
by Tom Moeller  January 29, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Index increased 7.2% during the week of January 24 following a 1.2% dip in the prior week. Applications were two-thirds higher than one year earlier. Applications to refinance a loan rebounded 7.5% (145.9% y/y) and recovered the prior week's 1.8% decline. Purchase applications rose 5.3% (17.8% y/y) after a 2.0% fall.

The contract interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell last week to 3.81% from 3.87% and remained the lowest reading since November 2016. This rate is below its high of 5.17% reached early in November 2018. The contract  rate on a 15-year fixed-rate loan edged lower to 3.24% from 3.25%. The contract rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage declined to 3.78% from 3.87%. The interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage declined to 3.15%, the lowest level since September 2017.

The average mortgage loan size increased to $319,900 (2.2% y/y). The average loan size for purchases rose to $338,700 (8.0% y/y). The average loan size for refinancings was $307,500 (-1.4% y/y).

Applications for fixed-rate loans surged roughly three-quarters y/y while applications for adjustable rate loans gained 0.9% 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) 01/24/20 01/17/20 01/10/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 7.2 -1.2 30.2 67.2 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 5.3 -2.0 15.5 17.8 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 7.5 -1.8 42.7 145.9 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Mortgage Contract Interest Rate (%) 3.81 3.87 3.87 4.75 (Jan'19) 4.22 4.80 4.21
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