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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Retreat
by Sandy Batten  February 19, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Application Index fell 6.4% w/w in the week ending on February 14. This was the first decline in four weeks. Compared to a year ago, applications were up 76.7%. Purchase applications declined 3.4% w/w (+11.0% y/y), the third consecutive weekly decline. Applications to refinance a loan decreased 8.0% w/w (+165.1% y/y), also their first decline in four weeks.

Mortgage interest rates generally rose in the week ending February 14 but remained well below their most recent peaks. The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.29% from 3.26% the previous week. This is the second consecutive weekly increase but leaves the rate well below its most recent peak of 4.71% reached in early November 2018. The effective interest rate on the 30-year fixed rate mortgage also rose, to 3.85%, its first increase in eight weeks, from 3.80% the previous week. The effective rate on the 30-year Jumbo mortgage rose to 3.84% from 3.79%. The interest rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage increased to 3.30% from 3.25%.

Led by a big drop in the average loan size for refinancing, the average mortgage loan size fell to $334,200 in the week ending February 14 from $347,100 the previous week. The average loan size for purchases was little changed at $346,800 versus $347,300 the previous week while the average loan size for refinancings fell sharply to $326,800 from $347,000.

Applications for fixed-rate loans fell 5.6% w/w (+81.1% y/y), and applications for adjustable rate loans collapsed 18.9% w/w (+23.8% 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) 02/14/20 02/07/20 01/31/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -6.4 1.1 5.0 76.7 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -3.4 -5.8 -9.5 11.0 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -8.0 5.0 15.3 165.1 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.29 3.26 3.25 4.16 (Feb.'19) 3.71 4.35 3.59
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