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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Ease As Purchase Applications Fall
by Tom Moeller  December 9, 2020

• Mortgage rates decline to another record low.

• Refinancing applications rise moderately.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index declined 1.2% in the week ended December 4 (+59.4% y/y) and added to the prior week's 0.6% slip. Fewer purchase applications led the decline with a 5.0% fall (+21.4% y/y) after rising 9.0% in the prior week. Refinancing applications increased 1.8% (+89.1% y/y) following a 4.6% drop. Refinancing share of total applications rose to 72.0% from 69.5% the previous week. The share of applications for mortgage loans with adjustable rates decreased to 1.7% from 1.8% in the last week of November.

The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage edged down to a record low of 3.00% from 3.01% in the week earlier. The 15-year fixed-rate loan held steady at 2.60%, and the rate on a 5-year adjustable rate loan fell 2.75%. These series begin in January 1990. The effective rate for a Jumbo mortgage edged slightly higher to 3.28% from 3.27% in the prior week.

The average mortgage loan size fell to $317,800 (+1.2% y/y) from $323,300 in the prior week. The average size of a purchase loan declined to $366,100 (+12.6% y/y) from $375,200. The average size of a refinanced loan eased to $299,000 (-2.8% y/y) from $300,500.

Applications for fixed-rate loans declined 1.0% (+65.0% y/y) from $323,300 and applications for adjustable-rate mortgages dropped 8.7% (-46.1% 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) 12/4/20 11/27/20 11/20/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index -1.2 -0.6 3.9 59.4 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -5.0 9.0 3.5 21.4 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 1.8 -4.6 4.5 89.1 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.00 3.01 3.02 4.07

(Dec '19)

4.34 4.94 4.32
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