Purchase mortgage applications held their ground for the third consecutive week, pushing the Mortgage Banker Association's Market Composite Index a bit higher.  The Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 0.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended March 9.  The Index increased 2 percent on an unadjusted basis.

There was a 3 percent gain in the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 5 percent compared with the week ended March 2 and was 3 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

Refinancing's influence on mortgage activity continues to wane. The Refinance Index declined for the fifth time in the last seven weeks, losing 2 percent in volume week-over-week. The refinancing share of total applications decreased to the lowest level since September 2008, 40.1 percent from 41.8 percent the previous week. It started off the year with a 52.9 percent share.

Refi Index vs 30yr Fixed

Purchase Index vs 30yr Fixed

Applications for FHA mortgages inched up from 10.1 percent of the total received the previous week to 10.4 percent and the VA share rose to 10.3 percent from 9.9 percent. USDA applications accounted for the same 0.9 percent share as the week before.   

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRM) meeting the conforming loan limit of $453,100 or less moved to the highest level since January 2014, rising to 4.69 percent, from 4.65 percent.  This was offset by a decline in points from 0.58 to 0.45, leaving the effective rate unchanged.   

The contract interest rate for jumbo 30-year FRM, loans with balances exceeding the conforming limit, dipped 1 basis point to 4.55 percent.  Points were also lower, 0.33 compared to 0.52 and the effective rate declined from the prior week.

Rates for 30-year FRM backed by the FHA averaged 4.73 percent compared to 4.68 percent the previous week.  It was the highest rate since July 2011.  Points decreased to 0.76 from 0.79 and the effective rate moved higher.  

Both contract and effective rates decreased for 15-year FRM.  The weeks average contract rate was 4.07 percent with 0.46 point compared to 4.11 percent with 0.64 point the previous week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) increased to its highest level since February 2011, 3.93 percent, from 3.81 percent, with points decreasing to 0.45 from 0.46.  The effective rate also increased.  The ARM share of applications backed off of the previous week's 9-month high of 7.3 percent, falling to 7.1 percent.

MBA's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.  Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts.  Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100 and interest rate information is based on loans with an 80 percent loan-to-value ratio and points that include the origination fee.