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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Increase as Rates Ease
by Tom Moeller  February 26, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Application Index rose 1.5% (70.2% y/y) during the week ending February 21 following a 6.4% decline in the previous week. Purchase applications rebounded 5.7% (10.6% y/y) last week following three consecutive weekly declines. Applications to refinance a loan eased 0.8% (+151.6% y/y) after falling 8.0% during the prior week.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.23% and reversed the prior week's rise to 3.29%. The rate was well below its recent peak of 4.71% reached in early November 2018 and the lowest since November 2016. The effective interest rate on the 30-year fixed rate mortgage also fell to 3.81% from 3.85% the previous week. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage reversed the prior week's increase and declined to 3.81%. The interest rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage edged up to 3.31%, the highest level in five weeks.

The average mortgage loan size fell to $332,100 last week from $334,200 the previous week. It remained up, nevertheless, from a low of $298,100 early in January. The average loan size for purchases rose slightly to $347,800 while the average loan size for refinancings fell to $322,000.   

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose roughly three-quarters y/y while applications for adjustable rate loans rose roughly one-quarter 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) 02/21/20 02/14/20 02/07/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 1.5 -6.4 1.1 70.2 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 5.7 -3.4 -5.8 10.6 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -0.8 -8.0 5.0 151.6 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.23 3.29 3.26 4.16 (Feb.'19) 3.71 4.35 3.59
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