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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Increase As Interest Rates Fall
by Tom Moeller  January 12, 2011

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that overall mortgage applications increased 2.2% last week after a like gain during the week prior. Nevertheless, applications remained near the lowest since 2008. Applications to refinance a mortgage led the with a 4.9% increase after the prior week's 3.9% gain. Applications to purchase a home fell 3.7% leaving them down 4.5% from the December average. During the last ten years, the has been a 51% correlation between the y/y change in purchase applications and the change in new plus existing single family home sales. The correlation has lessened recently.

Applications for fixed-rate mortgage financing again increased slightly following two months of sharp decline. Applications for variable-rate financing were roughly unchanged.

The effective fixed interest rate on conventional 15-year mortgages slipped to 4.40% last week. Nevertheless, it was near the highest level since late-May and up from the October low of 3.88%. For 30-year mortgages the rate slipped to an average 4.96%. Interest rates on fixed 15-year and 30-year mortgages are closely correlated (near-90%) with the rate on 10-year Treasury securities.

The Mortgage Bankers Association surveys between 20 to 35 of the top lenders in the U.S. housing industry to derive its refinance, purchase and market indexes. The weekly survey covers roughly 50% of all U.S. residential mortgage applications processed each week by mortgage banks, commercial banks and thrifts. The figures for weekly mortgage applications are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

Why Is The Market Share of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages So Low? from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is available here.

BA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 01/07/11 12/31/10 12/24/10 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Total Market Index 482.7 472.1 461.3 -8.6 659.3 736.4 642.9
 Purchase 192.4 199.8 201.4 -10.0 199.8 263.5 345.4
 Refinancing 2,219.2 2,115.4 2,036.9 -7.8 3,348.1 3,509.2 2,394.1
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate 4.40 4.48 4.56 4.69
4.39 4.85 5.88
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