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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rise As Interest Rates Fall
by Tom Moeller  March 23, 2011

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that overall mortgage applications rose 2.7% last week. So far this month applications have risen 14.3% from the February average. Applications to refinance rose 2.7% but were off roughly one-half from the high last August. Applications to purchase a home also rose 2.7% and for the month were at their highest since December. During the last ten years, there has been a 42% 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 from 61% before 2008.

Applications for fixed interest rate mortgage financing rose 2.5% last week (-12.8% y/y) to the highest level this year. Applications for variable-rate financing posted a strong 8.1% increase (7.4% y/y) though they were still off roughly two-thirds from the September peak.

The effective fixed interest rate on conventional 15-year mortgages fell to 4.25% last week, the lowest since early-December. For 30-year mortgages the rate fell to an average 5.00%. 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.

BA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 3/18/11 3/11/11 3/4/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Total Market Index 524.4 510.7 514.2 -11.9 659.3 736.4 642.9
 Purchase 191.7 186.6 194.4 -15.7 199.8 263.5 345.4
 Refinancing 2,471.2 2,406.3 2,383.7 -10.0 3,348.1 3,509.2 2,394.1
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 4.25 4.25 4.46 4.57
4.39 4.85 5.88
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