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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Rebound as Rates Slip
by Sandy Batten  October 28, 2020

• Led by 2.5% w/w jump in refinancing applications.

• Purchase applications were essentially unchanged.

• Fixed mortgage interest rates generally declined with the Jumbo rate falling to a new record low.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index rebounded in the most recent week, rising 1.7% w/w (55.6% y/y) after having declined in each of the previous two weeks. Purchase applications were essentially unchanged (+0.2% w/w, 23.5% y/y) after having fallen in each of the four previous weeks. Applications to refinance an existing loan jumped up 2.5% w/w (79.7% y/y). The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 66.7% of total applications from 66.1% in the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity edged up to 2.1% of total applications.

Interest rates generally edged down last week. The effective rate on a 30-year fixed rate interest rate slipped to 3.10%, retouching its record low of two weeks earlier, from 3.13%. The rate on 15-year loans was unchanged at 2.69%, just two basis points above its all-time low reached two weeks ago. The effective rate for a Jumbo mortgage loan fell five basis points to a new record low of 3.37%% (this series began in January 2011). The rate on the 5-year adjustable rate mortgage jumped up 21 basis points to 3.28%. It has risen 44 basis points in the past two weeks.

The average mortgage loan size rose 0.8% w/w (2.0% y/y) to $322,900. The average size of a purchase loan rose 0.2% (12.5% y/y) to a new record high of $372,600. The average loan size to refinance increased 1.4% (-2.6% y/y) to $298,100.

Applications for fixed-rate loans rose 1.5% w/w (60.6% y/y) and applications for adjustable-rate mortgages jumped up 12.7% w/w (-36.0% 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 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) 10/23/20 10/16/20 10/09/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 1.7 -0.6 -0.7 55.6 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 0.2 -2.1 -1.6 23.5 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 2.5 0.2 -0.3 79.7 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.10 3.13 3.10 4.08

(Oct '19)

4.34 4.94 4.32
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