Mortgage applications fell 14.4% last week
Mortgage applications appear to have decreased last week as interest rates moved away from historic lows and demand for refinancings fell to the lowest level since July -- although the Veterans Day holiday is causing some to question the numbers. The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that its market composite index fell 14.4% for the week ended Nov. 12, with a 16.5% drop in refinance applications. The index declined 15% on an unadjusted basis. The numbers once again represent a large swing from the prior week when the overall index rose 5.8% and refinancings climbed 6%. "Rates increased sharply last week due to stronger economic data and lingering uncertainty regarding the structure and impact of the Fed’s QE2 program," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA vice president of research and economics. "Mortgage applications, particularly for refinances, dropped in response." Purchase applications decreased 5% last week for the first time in a month, as well, according to the MBA. The unadjusted purchase index fell 8.2%, and was 11.3% lower than the year earlier. The MBA did not adjust its weekly figures to account for the Veterans Day holiday, however, and some Wall Street analysts said that the numbers would have looked much different had the MBA done so. "If we make a 25% adjustment to account for the Veterans Day holiday, the refinance index was marginally higher, even though the mortgage rate was 18bps higher based on the MBA survey," wrote Chris Flanagan and analysts at Bank of American Merrill Lynch in a research note Wednesday morning. "Overall, there was no major surprise." In four-week moving averages, the seasonally adjusted market index is down 2.8%, the purchase index is up 1.3% and the refinance index is down 3.7%. Refinancings accounted for 80.3% of all mortgage applications last week, down from 81.7% the week earlier. The MBA said the average interest rate for 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages rose to the highest level in two months, climbing to 4.46% from 4.28% and to 3.87% from 3.64%. According to Zillow Mortgage Marketplace weekly update, rates for a 30-year, fixed-mortgage increased to a four-month high of 4.34% last week, up from a record low of 4.07% the prior week. Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries also attributed the jump in rates to the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing plan, set in motion earlier this month. Write to Jason Philyaw.