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Refi Applications Did Last Week's Heavy Lifting, ARMs Getting Bigger

By: Jann Swanson
Posted Wed, Mar 7 2018, 8:43 AM

The strong performance of purchase mortgage applications during the week ended February 23 didn't last long, and overall mortgage activity barely stayed in positive territory last week.  A modest increase in refinancing allowed the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA's) Market Composite Index to eke out an 0.3 percent increase on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended March 2 while the unadjusted index gained 13 percent.   The latter reflected a recovery from the earlier week which had been shortened by the Presidents' Day holiday.  

The Purchase Index ticked down 1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis after jumping 6.0 percent the week before, its largest gain in nearly two months. The unadjusted version was 13 percent higher compared to the earlier holiday period and was up 1 percent from the same week in 2017.

The Refinance Index was up 2 percent from the prior period, its first positive reading in four weeks. The market share of refinancing applications was unchanged from the previous week at 41.8 percent.

Refi Index vs 30yr Fixed

Purchase Index vs 30yr Fixed

Applications for FHA-backed mortgages declined to 10.1 percent of the total compared to 10.3 percent a week earlier and VA applications dropped to 9.9 percent from 10.7 percent. Applications for USDA mortgages rose to 0.9 percent from 0.8 period.

Mortgage rates continued to be mixed. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRM) with conforming loan balances of $453,100 or less increased 1 basis points to its highest level since January 2014, 4.65 percent.  Points decreased to 0.58 from 0.63, leaving the effective rate unchanged.   

Thirty-year FRM with jumbo loan balances exceeding the conforming loan limit had an average rate of 4.56 percent with 0.52 point, down from 4.57 percent with 0.52 point. The effective rate also declined.   

The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRM backed by the FHA was unchanged from the prior week at 4.68 percent.  Points rose to 0.79 from 0.75, moving the effective rate higher.  

The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRM rose 4 basis points to 4.11 percent, its highest level since April 2011.  Points increased to 0.64 from 0.59 and the effective rate increased.  

The market share for adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) was the highest since June of last year, 7.3 percent compared to 6.7 percent the previous week. The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 3.81 percent from 3.85 percent, and points decreased to 0.46 from 0.59, producing a lower effective rate.

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.

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