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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rebound, Led by Refinancing
by Sandy Batten  April 1, 2020

Led by a sharp increase in refinancing applications, the Mortgage Bankers Association's Mortgage Loan Application Index rebounded in the week ended March 27, rising 15.3% w/w (73.7% y/y) after having fallen 29.4% w/w in the previous week and 8.4% w/w in the week ended March 13. Purchase applications remained weak (-10.8% w/w and -23.5% y/y) as the first signs of the devastating hit to employment from the spreading coronavirus likely caused potential homebuyers to pull back. In contrast, with mortgage interest rates falling to series lows for some rates, applications for refinancing jumped up 25.5% w/w (167.7% y/y) after having declined 40.7% in the previous two weeks. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 75.9% of total applications from 69.3% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity decreased to 3.2% of total applications.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell markedly to 3.12% in the week ended March 27 from 3.38% the previous week. The effective interest rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slumped to 3.57%, the lowest rate in the history of the series, from 3.93%. In contrast, the effective rate on a 30-year Jumbo mortgage only edged down 2 basis points to 3.93% after having risen 31 basis points in the previous two weeks. The rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage fell to 3.34% from 3.48%.

The average mortgage loan size fell to $323,700 in the week ended March 27 from $337,000 the previous week. The average loan size of refinancings declined to $322,800 from $337,500. The average loan size for purchases fell to $326,500 from $336,000.

Applications for fixed-rate loans were up 85.8% y/y, while applications for adjustable rate loans fell 41.9% y/y.

The 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 each index 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) 03/27/20 03/20/20 03/13/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 15.3 -29.4 -8.4 73.7 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -10.8 -14.6 -0.9 -23.5 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 25.5 -33.8 -10.4 167.7 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.12 3.38 3.20 3.88 3.71 4.35 3.59
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.57 3.93 3.85 4.49 4.34 4.94 4.32
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