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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Decrease with Slowing of Refinancings
by Carol Stone, CBE  December 2, 2020

• Mortgage applications to purchase homes rose sharply.

• Average size of loans to purchase reaches another record high.

• Fixed mortgage rates fall to still another all-time lows.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index eased 0.6% in the week ended November 27 (+67.5% y/y) thus pausing after the prior week's 3.9% advance. The decline was in refinancing applications, which fell 4.6% (+102.1% y/y), reversing the previous week's 4.5% increase. Applications for purchase loans, by contrast, surged 9.0% (+27.3% y/y), for a third weekly gain and the largest since 10.6% in the May 8 period. The refinancing share of total applications thus decreased somewhat to 69.5% from 71.1% the previous week. The share of applications for mortgage loans with adjustable rates decreased to 1.8% in the November 27 week from 1.9% the week before

The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage ticked down from 3.02% in the November 20 week to 3.01% this past week. That was yet another all-time record low. Rates on other mortgage types were flat or rose slightly. That on a 15-year fixed-rate loan was unchanged at 2.60%, and that on a 5-year adjustable rate loan ticked up from 2.79% to 2.80%. These series began in January 1990. The effective rate for a Jumbo mortgage also ticked up, reaching 3.27% from 3.26% the prior week.

The average mortgage loan size rose 1.6% in the week ended November 27 to $323,300 (+2.1% y/y). The average size of a purchase loan edged higher by 0.3% to $375,200 (+12.2% y/y), yet another record high. The average size of a refinance loan was $300,500, up 1.7% on the week and but down 1.2% y/y.

Applications for fixed-rate loans decreased 0.6% in the latest week but were up 72.7% year-on-year and applications for adjustable-rate mortgages decreased 3.6% w/w and were down 35.7% y/y.

This 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) 11/27/20 11/20/20 11/13/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -0.6 3.9 -0.3 67.5 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase 9.0 3.5 3.5 27.3 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing -4.6 4.5 -1.8 102.1 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.01 3.02 3.09 4.08

(Nov '19)

4.34 4.94 4.32
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