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Economy in Brief

Mortgage Applications Fall Despite Declining Rates
by Sandy Batten  August 5, 2020

• Mortgage applications decreased 5.1% in week ending July 31.

• Purchase applications off 7.5% from beginning of July, while refinance applications up 9.3%.

• 15-year fixed rate mortgage interest rate edged down to 2.83%; 30-year rate fell to new low.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its total Mortgage Applications Index declined 5.1% w/w (+55.3% y/y) in the week ended July 31 on top of a 0.8% w/w decline in the previous week. Applications for loans to purchase a home decreased 1.8% (+21.5% y/y) following a 1.5% w/w decline the previous week. Loan applications for refinancing fell 6.8% w/w (+84.1% y/y) after having edged down 0.4% w/w the previous week. Applications climbed during the first half of July but have receded in the second half. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 63.9% of total applications from 65.1% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 3.1% of total applications.

The effective interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage edged down to 2.83% from 2.85% the previous week. It had reached a record low of 2.78% in the week ending July 10. Even though 10-year Treasury rates (the benchmark for mortgage rates) have been range-bound since early April, mortgage rates have been on the decline as risk premia--the compensation for lending in riskier markets--have fallen. The 30-year fixed rate fell to a new record low of 3.25% from 3.31% the previous week. The 30-year jumbo rate rose one basis point to 3.61%, still near its record low of 3.59% set in the week of July 17. The 5-year adjustable rate slipped to 3.07% from 3.12% the previous week.

The average mortgage loan size fell to $326,300 (1.5% y/y), down meaningfully from the early March high of $367,900. For purchases the average loan size rose to $366,500 (15.1% y/y) while refinancing loans fell to $303,700 (-6.4% y/y).

With fixed mortgage interest rates having fallen more than adjustable rates, applications for fixed-rate loans are up 57.8% y/y versus 3.0% y/y for adjustable rate mortgages.

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 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) 07/31/20 07/24/20 07/17/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -5.1 -0.8 4.1 55.3 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -1.8 -1.5 1.8 21.5 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -6.8 -0.4 5.3 84.1 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
15-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 2.83 2.85 2.80

(Jul '19)

3.71 4.35 3.59
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