Falling mortgage applications dampen the mood around housing
Mortgage application filings fell 6.4% for the week ending February 8 as both refinancing and home purchase activity declined, an industry trade group.
Coincidentally, mortgage rates also continued to rise after spending 2012 near record lows. Analysts are not suggesting that the data automatically spells trouble for the housing market, but declining applications in the midst of a recovery did dampen the mood.
The Mortgage Bankers Association noted that the average 30-year, FRM with a conforming loan balance edged up to 3.75% from 3.73% a week earlier.
In addition, the 30-year, FRM with a jumbo loan balance increased to 3.98% from 3.96%, while the 30-year FRM backed by the FHA remained unchanged at 3.53%.
The 15-year, FRM increased to 3.01%, up slightly from 3%.
The average 5/1 ARM was the only rate that declined, falling to 2.66%, down from 2.72%.
The MBA's calculation of loan application volume fell as the refinance index declined 6% from the previous week and the purchase index – a measure of home purchase applications – declined 10%.
Whether rising rates stemmed applications activity is unknown.
Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans, said there is no need "to read too deeply into week-to-week changes." He added, "The truth is many homeowners may simply be deciding to play the market and wait for their home to appreciate before putting it up for sale. Despite the drop in applications, we have seen anecdotal evidence of homes selling very quickly after entering the market."
But analysts with Econoday suggest falling applications may be a sign that housing demand has started to cool.
"Right when MBA's weekly data appeared to be settling down, especially for the purchase index which seemed to be steadily climbing, large swings re-appear," Econoday wrote. "The purchase index fell 10% in the February 8 week in a decline, unless recovered in subsequent weeks, that does not support an upbeat outlook for housing demand."