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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rise in Latest Week, All in Refinancings
by Carol Stone, CBE  November 4, 2020

• Refinancings surge 6.4% as purchase applications fall 1.3%.

• New record low rate for 15-year mortgages, 2.63%, and for Jumbo loans, 3.27%.

• Fixed rate loan applications up 67% from a year ago.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index jumped 3.8% in the week ended October 30 (61.6% y/y) after increasing 1.7% the week before. The latest increase was all in refinancings, which rose 6.4% (87.8% y/y). Purchase applications fell 1.3% (25.0% y/y). The refinancing share of total applications rose 2 percentage points to 68.7%. With interest rates low (see below), adjustable rate mortgages are less attractive, and their share of the total number of applications held steady at just 2.1%.

Interest rates were somewhat mixed this past week as 30-year fixed rate mortgages had an effective rate of 3.12%, up from 3.10% the previous week. That 3.10% rate repeated the record low, which was first seen in the October 9 week. The rate on 15-year loans fell to 2.63% in the October 30 week from 2.69% the week before and set a new record low. The effective rate for a Jumbo mortgage fell 10 basis points to 3.27%, yet another record low. (this series began in January 2011). The rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage fell 42 basis points to 2.86%; the record low for that category of mortgages was 2.84% in the October 9 week.

The average mortgage loan size decreased 0.4% w/w (1.5% y/y) to $321,700. The average size of a purchase loan edged up 0.1% (12.1% y/y) to a new record high of $373,000. The average loan size to refinance increased 0.1% (-2.5% y/y) to $298,400.

Applications for fixed-rate loans increased 3.8% w/w (66.8% y/y) and applications for adjustable-rate mortgages rose 1.1% w/w (-34.5% 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 all indexes 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) 10/30/20 10/23/20 10/16/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 3.8 1.7 -0.6 61.6 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -1.3 0.2 -2.1 25.0 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 6.4 2.5 0.2 87.8 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.12 3.10 3.13 4.08

(Oct '19)

4.34 4.94 4.32
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