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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Decline as Interest Rates Continue to Increase
by Tom Moeller  February 24, 2021

• Purchase and refinancing loan applications fall.

• Mortgage interest rates rise further.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index declined 11.4% (+33.0% y/y) in the week ended February 19. It has declined in five of the last six weeks. Applications for home purchase dropped 11.6% (+6.9% y/y), off for the fourth week in the last five. Applications for refinancing weakened 11.3% (+49.9% y/y) and also have been falling steadily since the middle of last month.

The refinance share of mortgage activity fell to 68.5% of total applications and has been falling for two months. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 2.7% of total applications, up from 1.6% early last month.

Mortgage interest rates recently have been rising. The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage rose to 3.22%, up from its mid-December low of 2.95%. The effective 15-year rate rose ten basis points to 2.66%. The effective rate for a 30-year Jumbo mortgage jumped to 3.35% from 3.21%. The rate on a five-year ARM declined to 2.96% after increasing to 3.09% in the prior week.

The average mortgage loan size rose to $344,800 in the week ended February 19. The average size of a purchase loan rose to $418,000, a new series high dating back to January 1990. The average size of a refinanced loan increased to $311,100.

Applications for fixed-rate loans tumbled 11.7% (+24.0% y/y) to the lowest level since late-September. Applications for adjustable-rate mortgages fell 1.5% (-38.9% y/y) last week.

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) 02/19/21 02/12/21 02/05/21 Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Total Market Index -11.4 -5.1 -4.1 33.0 63.0 32.4 -10.4
  Purchase -11.6 -6.1 -4.7 6.9 11.4 6.6 2.1
  Refinancing -11.3 -4.7 -4.2 49.9 111.0 71.1 -24.3
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.22 3.10 3.06 3.78

(Feb '20)

3.40 4.34 4.94
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