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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Decline Further
by Tom Moeller  April 14, 2021

• Purchase and refinancing applications fall.

• Mortgage interest rates ease.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index fell 3.7% (-13.4% y/y) in the week ended April 9, the sixth consecutive weekly decline. Applications for refinancing declined 5.0% (-31.3% y/y) after falling 5.3% during the previous week. Applications to purchase a home fell 1.4% (+53.1% y/y), the third consecutive weekly fall.

The refinance share of mortgage activity edged down to 59.2% of total applications. This share has declined relatively steadily from a peak of 74.8% in early January. The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity eased to 3.6% last week from 3.7% the prior week.

Mortgage interest rates fell last week. The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage declined to 3.37% from 3.48% in the prior week, but remained above the 2.96% rate at the beginning of the year. The effective 15-year rate declined to 2.78% from 2.82%, compared to 2.47% at the start of the year. The effective rate for a 30-year Jumbo mortgage fell eight basis points to 3.45% and reversed most of the prior week's increase. The rate on a five-year ARM fell sharply to 2.74% from 3.09%. It was the lowest rate since the third week of January.

The average mortgage loan size was little changed at $322,600 in the week ended April 9. The average size of a purchase loan edged lower to $399,000, down from a peak of $418,000 in the third week of February. The average size of a refinanced loan fell to $269,800 versus the late-February peak of $311,100.

Applications for fixed-rate loans fell 3.6% (-14.1% y/y) last week, their sixth consecutive weekly decline. Applications for adjustable-rate mortgages declined 6.3% (+14.3% y/y) last week.

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) 04/09/21 04/02/21 03/26/21 Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Total Market Index -3.7 -5.1 -2.2 -13.4 63.0 32.4 -10.4
  Purchase -1.4 -4.6 -1.5 53.1 11.4 6.6 2.1
  Refinancing -5.0 -5.3 -2.5 -31.3 111.0 71.1 -24.3
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 3.37 3.48 3.44 3.54

(Apr '20)

3.40 4.34 4.94
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