By Margaret Chadbourn
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - U.S. mortgage lendingincreased by 38 percent last year, boosted by significantrefinancing activity, with white and Asian borrowers continuingto enjoy greater access to credit for purchases than blacks orHispanics, regulators said on Wednesday.
Banks are required to disclose detailed lending data underthe federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act by March 1 of eachyear, and regulators regularly provide an overview.
The data highlights how much historically low interest rateshave helped spur the recent U.S. housing market's rebound sinceits 2006 collapse. However, borrowing costs have started to tickup, raising fears that the market's momentum could soon stall.
"The total number of originated loans of all types andpurposes reported increased by about 2.7 million, or 38 percent,from 2011, in part because of a 54 percent increase in thenumber of refinancings," the report from the regulators said.
Home purchase lending also increased during the same period,but by a more modest 13 percent.
The information collected by regulators is aimed at helpingthem determine how consumers are faring in credit markets, andwhether any discriminatory lending patterns are emerging.
Data on home purchases showed that blacks and Hispanicwhites had "experienced higher denial rates than non-Hispanicwhite applicants," the report said. The denial rate for Asianapplicants was "virtually the same as the corresponding denialrate for non-Hispanic white applicants."
The same general pattern had been seen in prior years.
However, regulators cautioned that the data did notnecessarily "determine whether a lender is complying with fairlending laws."
Higher denial rates could reflect variances in economiccircumstances and credit-worthiness, and further investigationwould be needed to determine if mortgage applicants were treatedfairly, the regulators said.
The 2012 data consists of loan information reported by 7,400lenders, including all of the nation's largest mortgageoriginators.
The data was released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp,the Federal Reserve, the National Credit Union Administration,the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the ConsumerFinancial Protection Bureau and the Department of Housing andUrban Development.