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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rebound as Rates Fall to Record Low
by Sandy Batten  December 16, 2020

• Mortgage applications rise moderately.

• Mortgage interest rates decline to another survey low.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index rebounded modestly in the week ended December 11, rising 1.1% w/w (69.7% y/y) after having declined in each of the previous two weeks. Applications for purchase increase 1.8% w/w (26.3% y/y) following a 5.0% weekly decline in the previous week. Refinancing applications gained 1.4% w/w (105.0% y/y) on top of a 1.8% w/w rise in the previous week. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 72.7% of total applications from 72.0% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 1.8% of total applications.

The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage dropped five basis points to a new survey low of 2.95% and the 15-year rate declined four basis points to 2.56%, also a new low. These surveys began in January 1990. The effective rate for a Jumbo mortgage declined six basis points to 3.22%, just three basis points above its survey low reached in the week of November 13. The rate on a five-year ARM fell four basis points to 2.71%, its lowest since April 2013.

The average mortgage loan size increased to $320,600 (+3.9% y/y) from $317,800 in the previous week. The average size of a purchase loan rose to $374,700 (+14.2% y/y), just $500 shy of the survey high set in the week of November 27, from $366,100. The average size of a refinanced loan edged up to $300,300 (+1.1% y/y) from $299,000.

Applications for fixed-rate loans increased 1.0% w/w (+74.7% y/y) and applications for adjustable-rate mortgages rebounded 7.0% w/w (-34.0% y/y).

This 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) 12/11/20 12/04/20 11/27/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 1.1 -1.2 -0.6 69.7 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 1.8 -5.0 9.0 26.3 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 1.4 1.8 -4.6 105.0 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 2.95 3.00 3.01 4.07

(Dec '19)

4.34 4.94 4.32
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