Mortgage Applications Still Going Strong
Raw mortgage application volume rose a seasonally adjusted 4.7 percent in the week ending April 3, according to a weekly survey released Wednesday by Mortgage Bankers Association. The four-week moving index for raw application volume rose 13.3 percent after the previous week's 16 percent increase, indicating overall interest -- although still strong -- may be cooling off slightly after the Federal Reserve's mid-March announcement it would fund an additional $1.5 trillion to credit-unlocking efforts, which began pushing down mortgage rates and driving up applications. Refinance application volume rose 3.2 percent for the week, while the four-week moving average was up 16 percent, suggesting some seasonal strength in refinance interest. The refinance share of mortgage application activity fell slightly to 77.9 percent of total applications, from 79.1 percent the week before, according to the MBA's data. The index measuring purchase application volume rose 11.1 percent, with conventional purchase application volume up 7.7 percent and government purchase application volume -- think FHA loans, here -- up 17.1 percent for the week, according to the MBA. These new data show a jump from last week, when total purchase applications inched up 0.1 percent. The shift of some interest away from refinance and toward purchase applications may have something to do with mortgage rates easing upward in the same week. The MBA found 30-year fixed mortgage rates rose to an average 4.73 percent from 4.61 a week earlier, while 15-year fixed mortgage rates rose to an average 4.49 from 4.45 percent the week before. With slightly higher rates this week, borrowers looking to purchase homes may have been quicker to apply than those trying to refinance into low interest rates. A separate survey conducted by Mortgage Maxx LLC found that application activity adjusted for multiple applications from a single household rose 5.5 percent for the same week ending April 3. Household activity in California alone rose 9.7 percent, the study found. The Mortgage Application Index -- or MAX -- publisher Paul Descloux, in his weekly commentary on the index, warned recent refi popularity may not translate into actual closed refi loans -- and that even those may have at best a marginal effect on monthly payments after various fees and other expenses. "Mortgage applications continue to ramp up as the Fed piles into the MBS market pulling rates ever further into four percent territory," Descloux wrote. "However the MAX which in the past would have shown a response greater by a factor of two tells the story of this tattered economy. The expected increases in mortgage activity are appearing, but diminishing returns for the Fed’s quantitative easing may only provide a quantum of solace." Visit www.mbaa.org and www.mortgagemaxx.us for further details. Write to Diana Golobay at email@example.com. Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.