The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending January 21, 2011. 

The MBA's loan application survey covers over 50% of all U.S. residential mortgage loan applications taken by mortgage bankers, commercial banks, and thrifts. The data gives economists a snapshot view of consumer demand for mortgage loans. In a falling mortgage rate environment, a trend of increasing refinance applications implies consumers are seeking out lower monthly payments. If consumers are able to reduce their monthly mortgage payment and increase disposable income through refinancing, it can be a positive for the economy as a whole (may boost consumer spending. Also allows debtors to pay down personal liabilities faster). A trend of declining purchase applications implies home buyer demand is shrinking.

Excerpts from the Release...

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 12.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier.  On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 12.0 percent compared with the previous week. The results do not include an adjustment for the Martin Luther King holiday.   

The Refinance Index decreased 15.3 percent from the previous week and reached its lowest level since January 2010.  The four week moving average is down 0.1 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 70.3 percent of total applications from 73.0 percent the previous week.

The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 8.7 percent from one week earlier. The Purchase Index is at its lowest level since October 2010.  The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 3.1 percent compared with the previous week and was 20.8 percent lower than the same week one year ago.   The four week moving average is down 3.7 percent.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.8 percent from 4.77 percent, with points decreasing to 1.19 from 1.20 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. This week's increase in the rate followed three consecutive weekly decreases.   

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.12 percent from 4.16 percent, with points increasing to 1.26 from 0.90 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans.