Mortgage rates were up again for the week ending September 22 (Freddie Mac) and September 23 (MBA), returning, generally, to the rates we saw in mid-August.

Freddie Mac's Weekly Survey reported the 30-year fixed rate mortgage up 6 basis points from 5.74 to 5.80 percent and fees and points unchanged at 0.6. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased from 5.32 percent to 5.37 percent; fees and points were also up from 0.6 to 0.7. Both of the adjustable rate products tracked by Freddie were also up; the 5/1 hybrid adjustable increased from 5.26 percent to 5.31 percent with fees and points taking the largest hop seen in a long time; from 0.6 to 0.8. The 1-year ARM increased two basis points to 4.48 percent with fees and points moving from 0.6 to 0.7.

MBA's larger survey of mortgage lenders found that the 30 year fixed mortgage rose from 5.81 percent to 5.85 percent while fees, including origination fees dropped to 1.19 from 1.21. The 15-year increased from 5.38 to 5.44 percent with fees again declining from 1.25 to 1.23. The 1-year ARM topped the 5 percent mark for the first time in a while, averaging 5.02 percent, six basis points above the previous week.

Mortgage volume was down, whether reflecting increasing rates or the weather chaos in a sizeable part of the country was not defined. Applications were down 6.6 percent on an adjusted basis from the previous week and 7.1 percent on an unadjusted basis. Most strikingly, the volume was down 0.5 percent compared with the same week one year earlier. The 2005 rate had, for many months, consistently run well above the rate for the corresponding weeks in 2004 - usually by double digits. As recently as the Labor Day-shortened week of September 8 applications were up 26.5 percent from the same week a year earlier.

Refinancing as a share of overall mortgage activity decreased to 43.9 percent from 45.6 percent the previous week and the ARM share of applications decreased to 28.8 percent from 29.8 percent.

In a separate report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) sales of existing homes increased in August. NAR's monthly report, released on Monday, presented preliminary data showing that sales of previously owned homes rose 2 percent in August to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 7.29 million houses. This was 7.8 percent higher than August, 2004 and was the second highest rate on record. July sales were revised downward from the preliminary 7.16 million reported last month to 7.15 million.

NAR reported that the median price of homes that were sold in August was $220,000. This was 15.8 percent higher than the median sales price in August 2004.

Inventories, however, nudged upwards to a 4.7 month supply. This was 3.5 percent higher than the previous month and represents the highest inventory since November 2003.

Of course the elephants in the living room at present are Katrina and Rita. With evacuees starting their lives over virtually everywhere in the country, with applications for unemployment insurance skyrocketing, and billions about to be spent on reconstruction, it is impossible to know how rates and home sales will be impacted.