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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rebound
by Sandy Batten  February 3, 2021

• Led by surge in refinancing applications; purchase applications little changed.

• Fixed mortgage interest rates mixed while adjustable rates jumped up.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index rebounded in the week ended January 29, rising 8.1% w/w (43.9% y/y) following two consecutive weekly declines of 4.1% w/w in the previous week and 1.9% w/w two weeks ago. The rebound was led by a 11.4% w/w surge (59.5% y/y) in applications for refinancing after falls of 5.0% and 4.7% in the preceding two weeks. Applications for new purchases were little changed, edging up 0.1% w/w (17.9% y/y) versus a 4.0% weekly fall in the previous week. The refinance share of mortgage activity rose to 71.4% of total applications from 70.7% in the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 2.2% of total applications.

Fixed mortgage interest rates were mixed in the week ended January 29. The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage fell three basis points to 3.01%. The effective 15-year rate rose two basis points to 2.53%. The effective rate for a 30-year Jumbo mortgage declined four basis points to 3.22%. By contrast, the rate on a five-year ARM jumped up 31 basis points to 3.05%, its largest weekly increase in the series history dating back to January 2011.

The average mortgage loan size increased 0.7% w/w to $332,100 in the week ended January 29. The average size of a purchase loan rose 0.9% w/w to $398,600, a new series high dating back to January 1990. The average size of a refinanced loan increased 1.0% w/w to $305,500.

Applications for fixed-rate loans increased 8.1% w/w (+49.5% y/y) following weekly declines in each of the previous two weeks. Applications for adjustable-rate mortgages increased 6.3% w/w (-46.7% y/y) in the week ended January 29.

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) 01/29/21 01/22/21 01/15/21 Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Total Market Index 8.1 -4.1 -1.9 43.9 63.0 32.4 -10.4
  Purchase 0.1 -4.0 2.7 17.9 11.4 6.6 2.1
  Refinancing 11.4 -5.0 -4.7 59.5 111.0 71.1 -24.3
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.01 3.04 3.03 3.92

(Jan '20)

3.40 4.34 4.94
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