Mortgage applications jumped 23.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended January 13, 2012.  The increase in the Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume maintained by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reflected improvements in both the purchase and refinance business following the traditionally slow Christmas and New Year holiday period.  On an unadjusted basis the index increased 38.1 percent.

The Refinance Index increased 26.4 percent from the week ended January 6 to its highest point since August 8, 2011.  The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index rose 10.3 percent, returning to pre-holiday levels.  The unadjusted Purchase Index was up 28.4 percent from the previous week and was 2.2 percent higher than during the same week in 2011.

The four-week moving average for each index also increased; the Composite Index increased by 5.99 percent, the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index by 1.96 percent and the Refinance Index by 7.0 percent.

Refinancing took an 82.2 percent share of all application activity, up from 80.8 percent the previous week and the highest share since October 22, 2010.  Applications for adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) constituted represented a 5.6 percent share of applications, up two basis points from the previous week.

Purchase Index vs 30 Yr Fixed

Refinance Index vs 30 Yr Fixed

 "Interest rates dropped last week due to continuing anxieties regarding the fragile economic situation in Europe," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA's Vice President of Research and Economics.  "With mortgage rates reaching new lows, refinance volume jumped and MBA's refinance index reached its highest level in the last six months.  Purchase activity also increased as buyers returned to the market after the holiday season."

With the exception of jumbo loans (with balances over $417,500) interest rates continued their downward trend. Three of the rates, in fact, hit the lowest level in the history of the MBA applications survey.  The jumbo rate - for 30-year fixed-rate (FRM) loans - increased to 4.40 percent from 4.34 percent with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.47 point.  The effective rate also increased.

Thirty-year FRM with conforming (under $417,500) balances hit a new low, decreasing to 4.06 percent with 0.48 point from 4.11 percent with 0.41 point. The effective rate also decreased.

Rates for FHA guaranteed 30-year FRM were at 3.91 percent with 0.59 point, the lowest FHA rate in the history of MBA's application survey, down from 3.96 percent with 0.72 point.  The effective rate also decreased from the previous week.

The third all-time low is the 3.33 percent rate with 0.39 point for the 15-year FRM.  This was a drop from 3.40 percent with 0.37 point rate the previous week.  The effective rate also decreased.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs was unchanged at the record low 2.90 percent established the previous week.  Points decreased to 0.45 from 0.49.   The effective rate also decreased from last week.

All rates quoted are for 80 percent loan-to-value originations and points include the application fee.

 MBA's covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, and has been conducted weekly since 1990.  Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts.  Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100.