Mortgage applications rise 9.2% on refinancing activity

Mortgage applications increased 9.2% for the week ending May 11 as more investors fearing Europe’s debt crisis fled to U.S. Treasury securities, an industry trade group said Wednesday.

Experts at the Mortgage Bankers Association claim investor reaction to Europe’s debt situation caused U.S. mortgage rates to plummet to record lows, encouraging more borrowers to refinance.

The refinance index alone rose 13% from a week earlier, while the seasonally adjusted purchase index fell 2.4% from the previous seven-day period.

Overall, the refinance share of mortgage activity grew to 74.9% of total applications, compared to 72.1% the previous week.

Michael Fratantoni, the MBA’s vice president of research and economics, said HARP had nothing to do with the most recent jump in refinancing activity.

“Survey participants indicated that this was not due primarily to HARP volume – the HARP share of refinances fell to 28% of refinance applications, down relative to last week and last month, when the share was just above 30% in April,” Fratantoni said. “The increase in refinance activity last week was concentrated in the conventional sector, which was up around 14% for the week, while government refinance applications were up only 4%.”

The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a conforming loan balance of $417,500 or less fell to 3.96%, the lowest rate in the survey’s history and down from 4.01% a week earlier. The 30-year jumbo rate fell from 4.29% to 4.20%, while the 30-year, FRM backed by the FHA declined to 3.75%.

The 15-year, FRM declined from 3.29% to 3.26%, and the 5/1 ARM edged down from 2.83% to 2.80%.

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