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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications & Interest Rates Decline
by Tom Moeller  April 28, 2021

• Refinancing & purchase applications fall.

• Mortgage interest rates continue to ease.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index weakened 2.5% (-3.5% y/y) in the week ended April 23, following declines during six of the prior seven weeks. Applications to purchase a home weakened 4.8% (+34.1% y/y) and reversed the prior week's 5.7% rise. Applications for refinancing declined 1.1% (-18.4% y/y) after rising 10.4% in the prior week.

The refinance share of mortgage activity edged higher to 60.6% of total applications, well below the peak of 74.8% in early January. The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity eased to 3.5% last week.

Mortgage interest rates fell last week. The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage declined to 3.26% from 3.30% in the prior week but remained above the 2.96% rate at the beginning of the year. The effective 15-year rate fell to 2.63% from 2.75%, compared to 2.47% at the start of the year. The effective rate for a 30-year Jumbo mortgage edged lower to 3.37% after falling to 3.42% in the prior week. The rate on a five-year ARM declined to 2.76% from 2.87%.

The average mortgage loan size was fairly steady at $330,000 in the week ended April 23. The average size of a purchase loan declined to $400,100. The average size of a refinanced loan rose to $284,300.

Applications for fixed-rate loans fell 2.4% (-5.6% y/y) last week following declines in six of the prior seven weeks. Applications for adjustable-rate mortgages decreased 5.4% (+15.9% y/y) last week after rising 8.7% in the prior 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) 04/23/21 04/16/21 04/09/21 Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Total Market Index -2.5 8.6 -3.7 -3.5 63.0 32.4 -10.4
  Purchase -4.8 5.7 -1.4 34.1 11.4 6.6 2.1
  Refinancing -1.1 10.4 -5.0 -18.4 111.0 71.1 -24.3
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.26 3.30 3.37 3.54

(Apr '20)

3.40 4.34 4.94
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