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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Surge as Interest Rates Decline
by Tom Moeller  March 11, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Application Index rose 55.4% (205.2% y/y) during the week ending March 6 after a 15.1% gain in the prior week. The jump occurred as refinancings rose 78.6% (479.2% y/y). Purchase applications also were strong and posted a 5.6% recovery (11.9% y/y) following the prior week's 2.7% decline.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 2.97% from 3.09% the week before. The rate remained well below its recent peak of 4.71% in early November 2018. The effective interest rate on the 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.55% from 3.65% the previous week. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage eased to 3.64%, and the rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage fell to 3.17% from 3.31%.

The average mortgage loan size increased to $367,900 last week. The average size of refinancings rose to $372,100, up nearly one-quarter from a year ago. The average loan size for purchases was $354,200 (8.7% y/y).        

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose 151.0% y/y, while applications for adjustable rate loans were up almost 209.5%.

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) 03/06/20 02/28/20 02/21/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 55.4 15.1 1.5 205.2 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 5.6 -2.7 5.7 11.9 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 78.6 26.0 -0.8 479.2 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 2.97 3.09 3.23 4.05 3.71 4.35 3.59
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.55 3.65 3.81 4.66 4.34 4.94 4.32
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