Mortgage Loan Rates Rise Slightly, Home Purchases Fall to 1995 Level

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The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released its weekly report on mortgage applications Wednesday morning, noting a decrease of 8.5% in the group's seasonally adjusted composite index. That followed a drop of 4.1% for the previous week. Mortgage loan rates rose slightly on all by adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) loans.

The seasonally adjusted purchase index decreased by 4% from the prior week's report. On an unadjusted basis, the composite index decreased by 7% week-over-week. The unadjusted purchase index increased by a slight 0.1% for the week and is 15% lower year-over-year.

ARM loans account for 8% of all applications, unchanged from a week ago.

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The MBA's refinance index decreased by 11%, after declining by 3% in the previous week. The share of refinancings fell by three points to 58% of all applications, the lowest level since last September.

The average mortgage loan rate for a conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased from 4.50% to 4.53%. The rate for a jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 4.45% to 4.47%. The average interest rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage increased from 3.55% to 3.56%.

The contract interest rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage loan fell from 3.20% to 3.17%.

The seasonally adjusted purchase index is at its lowest point since 1995. The MBA's chief economist said, "Purchase applications were little changed on an unadjusted basis last week, but this is the time of year we would expect a significant pickup in purchase activity, and we are not seeing it." He did not blame the weather, but cold and snow over much of the United States must have been at least a contributing factor to the slide.

The sharp drop in the purchase index to 1995 levels is a very weak showing. Another point worth noting is that the mortgage loan rates for a jumbo loan remain lower than the rates for a conforming loan. Perhaps lenders may be trying to attract more creditworthy customers now that loan rules have changed.

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