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Mortgage Applications Inch Up This Week

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Prospective mortgage borrowers submitted 1.3% more applications in the week ending March 26, following two weeks of decline, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) survey of gross mortgage application volume. A separate survey of household applications also inched upward this week. MBA said the volume of applications submitted for home purchase continued its upward trend, rising 6.8% this week. "Purchase applications have increased over the past month, and are now at their highest level since last October when many homebuyers were rushing to get loans closed before the expected expiration of the homebuyer tax credit," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, in a press statement. "We may be seeing a similar pattern now, as the extended version of the tax credit ends next month." The higher volume of purchase applications lifted the overall week after the number of applications submitted for refinance fell 1.3%. The refinance share slipped down from 65% the week before to 63.2% of all applications submitted -- the lowest share since the week of Oct. 23, 2009, MBA said. The share of applications submitted for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) rose to 5.2% of all applications, from 4.8% a week earlier. At the same time, the Mortgage Maxx survey, which adjusts the gross volume to reflect the number of households participating in the application process, found application activity rose 1% after falling 7.8% the week before. The publisher of the index says in weekly commentary that "a double dip in housing looms." He writes: "Despite the largess of historically low mortgage rates and federal tax incentives, mortgage activity remains moribund. Realistically, there are only about two or three weeks left for prospective home buyers to draw up executable contracts [for the first-time homebuyer tax credit]. That said, this latest subsidy looks to be a bust." Write to Diana Golobay.

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