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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Decline Sharply as Interest Rates Rise
by Tom Moeller  March 25, 2020

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Application Index fell 29.4% (+78.6% y/y) during the week ending March 20 after an 8.4% decline in the prior week. The decline occurred as refinancings fell by roughly one-third (+195.4% y/y) after a 10.4% drop, and purchase applications weakened 14.6% (-11.3% y/y) following the prior week's 0.9% slip.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose sharply to 3.38% from 3.20% in the week ended March 13. It was the highest rate since early-January but remained well below the peak of 4.71% early in November 2018. The effective interest rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage also rose to 3.93%, the highest rate since mid-January. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage increased to 3.95%, and the rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage rose to 3.48%.

The average mortgage loan size fell to $337,000 last week (-2.8% y/y). The average loan size of refinancings declined to $337,500 (-6.9% y/y). The average loan size for purchases fell to $336,000 and was unchanged y/y.

Applications for fixed-rate loans were up a lessened 81.9% y/y, while applications for adjustable rate loans moved up 39.8% 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) 03/20/20 03/13/20 03/06/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -29.4 -8.4 55.4 78.6 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -14.6 -0.9 5.6 -11.3 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -33.8 -10.4 78.6 195.4 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.38 3.20 2.97 4.07 3.71 4.35 3.59
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.93 3.85 3.55 4.67 4.34 4.94 4.32
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