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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Edge Up
by Sandy Batten  May 13, 2020

• Financing rates remain near record lows.

• Purchase volume rose for fourth consecutive week while refinancings faded further.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Mortgage Loan Application Index edged up 0.3% w/w (+70.3% y/y) in the week ended May 8 versus a 0.1% rise in the previous week. The little change in overall activity again reflected a continued rebound in purchase activity but a further decline in refinancings. The rebound in purchases was relatively widespread as most of the large states experienced increases with some posting double-digit gains, led by a 14% w/w jump in New York state. Applications for purchase rose for the fourth consecutive week, increasing 10.6% w/w (-9.5% y/y) after a 5.8% w/w increase in the previous week as they continue to recover from a nearly five-year low. There appears to be some pent-up demand for home purchases as some states begin to reopen.

Applications for refinancing fell for the fourth consecutive week, declining 3.3% w/w (+200.9% y/y) after a 1.7% w/w decline in the previous week. The refinancing share of mortgage activity decreased to 67.0% of total applications from 70.0% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 2.9% of total applications.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to2.99% in the week ended May 8 from 3.01% in the previous week. This rate is now within two basis points of an all-time low for this series (dating back to 1990). The effective interest rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.52% after having declined to 3.49 in the previous week, a record low for the series. The effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage edged down to 3.78% from 3.79%. The rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage fell to 3.28% from 3.33%.

The average mortgage loan size slipped to $313,600 from $315,400. The average loan size of refinancings fell to $304,400 from $310,500. The average loan size for purchases rose to $332,300 from $326,800.

Home buyers and owners continue to lock in currently low levels of interest rates. Applications for fixed-rate loans increased 86.2% y/y, while applications for adjustable rate loans fell 18.7% 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) 05/08/20 05/01/20 04/24/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 0.3 0.1 -3.3 70.3 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 10.6 5.8 11.6 -9.5 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -3.3 -1.7 -7.3 200.9 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 2.99 3.01 3.05 3.89 3.71 4.35 3.59
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.52 3.49 3.53 4.52 4.34 4.94 4.32
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