Mortgage loan applications declined for the third-straight week, down 1.4% from the prior week to the lowest level in six weeks, as both purchase and refinance activity slowed, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA said its refinance index for the week ended Sept. 17 fell 0.9% and the seasonally adjusted purchase index decreased 3.3% from the week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the overall level of mortgage applications rose 22.9% from the previous week, which included the Labor Day holiday. The unadjusted purchase index rose 18.9% last week but is 38% below the year ago. In four-week moving averages, the seasonally adjusted market index is down 2.3%, the purchase index is up 1% and the refinance index is down 3%. Refinancings accounted for 81.1% of all mortgage applications last week, up from 80.5% the week earlier. The MBA said interest rates for 30-year fixed and 15-year fixed mortgages declined once again last week and remain near record lows. The average rate for the 30-year fell to 4.44% from 4.47%, and the 15-year decreased to 3.88% from 3.96%. On Tuesday, Zillow said its Mortgage Marketplace produced an average rate of 4.25% for a 30-year, fixed loan, which is the lowest figure since the report launched in April 2008. The Mortgage Maxx weekly index, which adjusts data to reflect the number of households applying for a mortgage, fell 2.4% to 171.1 last week when accounting for the holiday. On an unadjusted basis, the index declined 23.3% from the week before to 140.1. The index has averaged 154.7 since it began in April 2006. “The MAX retains its strength as mortgage affordability holds near pre-Vietnam era lows,” publisher Paul Descloux said. “Though the perennial deceleration in housing turnover has commenced, mortgage rates in the 3’s for ARMs and 4’s for fixed-rate keep applications humming. As mortgage affordability appears to have reached its terminus, the MAX has most likely made its high for the year. That said, some black swan policy initiative could prove that assumption incorrect. Post election day, anything is possible during these times.” Write to Jason Philyaw.

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