Mixed Signals on Mortgage Applications

By Drew FitzGerald

The number of mortgage applications filed in the U.S. last week fell 2.4% from the prior week, and refinance activity decreased 4.1%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey.

But purchasing increased by a seasonally adjusted 4.4% during the week ended Friday. Purchase applications are now almost 12% above the level seen a month ago, even after adjusting for seasonality, according to Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research and economics.

Overall, however, buying “remains subdued and within the narrow range we have seen since the expiration of the home buyer tax credit in 2010,” Mr. Fratantoni said.

The four-week moving average for all mortgage applications is down 2.1%. The four-week refinancing average is now down 3.3%, while seasonally adjusted purchasing is up 2.9%.

The share of total applications filed to refinance an existing mortgage reached 75.1%, down from 77% the previous week. Adjustable-rate mortgages made up 5.8% of activity last week, from 5.4% a week earlier.

The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances remained unchanged at 4.06%, while rates on similar mortgages with jumbo loan balances increased to 4.39% from 4.33%. The average rate on FHA-backed 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 3.82% from 3.87%.

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