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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Edge Lower as Interest Rate Rose in Early March
by Tom Moeller  March 18, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Application Index weakened 8.4% (+175.3% y/y) during the week ending March 13 after a 55.4% jump in the prior week. The decline occurred as refinancings fell 10.4% (+401.5% y/y), and purchase applications eased 0.9% (+10.6% y/y), following the prior week's 5.6% rise.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.20% from 2.97% in the week ended March 6. 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 also rose to 3.85% from 3.55% the previous week. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage increased to 3.87%, and the rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage rose to 3.26%.

The average mortgage loan size fell to $352,200 last week (+9.5% y/y). The average loan size of refinancings declined to $350,700 (+12.2% y/y). The average loan size for purchases rose to $356,800 (8.9% y/y).

Applications for fixed-rate loans were up 177.6% y/y, while applications for adjustable rate loans moved up 145.0% 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) 03/13/20 03/06/20 02/28/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -8.4 55.4 15.1 175.3 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -0.9 5.6 -2.7 10.6 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -10.4 78.6 26.0 401.5 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.20 2.97 3.09 4.13 3.71 4.35 3.59
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.85 3.55 3.65 4.77 4.34 4.94 4.32
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