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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Bounce Back
by Tom Moeller December 7, 2011

The index of total mortgage applications increased 12.8% last week to 650.4 (March 16, 1990 = 100). While the rise reversed most of the prior week's decline, the most recent trend in applications still was down.

Applications to purchase a home rose 8.3% to the highest level since April. Nevertheless, the downward trend remained in place as applications were off  two-thirds from the 2005 high. Applications to refinance recovered most of the prior week's decline with a 15.3% rise. Applications for a variable rate loan reversed nearly all of the prior week's decline (+6.5% y/y) while fixed-rate mortgage applications rose for the first time in four weeks (+7.8% y/y).

The effective rate on fixed-interest, conventional 15-year mortgages held nearly steady w/w at 3.65%, just above the record low of 3.57%. The effective rate on 30-year fixed rate loans held at 4.32%. On a 30-year Jumbo the effective rate was 4.66%. Though it's narrowed slightly of late, the spread between 15- and 30-year loan rates continued wide by historical standards. The effective interest rate on an adjustable 5-year mortgage ticked up to 3.21% versus from 3.18% averaged last month.

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.

"Flip This House": Investor Speculation and the Housing Bubble from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is available here.

MBA Mortgage Applications (SA, 3/16/90=100) 12/2/11 11/25/11 11/18/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Total Market Index 650.4 576.4 652.5 7.8 659.3 736.4 642.9
 Purchase 208.0 192.1 193.6 -1.4 199.8 263.5 345.4
 Refinancing 3,268.7 2,834.5 3,344.7 11.5 3,348.1 3,509.2 2,394.1
15-Year Mortgage Effective Interest Rate (%) 3.65 3.69 3.71 4.46
4.39 4.85 5.88
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