More jumbo mortgage products, fewer government offered in April

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Mortgage credit availability was unchanged in April, as originators tightened their government lending programs but made more jumbo offerings available.

The Mortgage Credit Availability Index was 177.9 for April, the same as it was in March but down from 183 one year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association said. The last time the MCAI was this low was in February 2016, when the index value was 177.8.

This index is calculated by the MBA using loan program data in Ellie Mae's AllRegs Market Clarity database.

"Credit availability in April was unchanged overall, but the components told different stories," Joel Kan, MBA associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a press release. "Government credit tightened slightly as investors continued to pull back on streamline refinance products, while conventional credit availability increased, driven mainly by an expansion in jumbo credit."

The government loan component of the MCAI fell by 1.4% from March, while the conventional index increased by 1.9%. The conventional index is broken down into jumbo and conforming segments. The jumbo index increased by 4.4% while the conforming index declined by 0.9%.

"The jumbo market remains competitive for lenders according to data from our Weekly Application Survey, as the spread between conforming 30-year fixed-rate loans and jumbo 30-year fixed-rate loans widened to 12 basis points over March and April, the widest this spread has been since early 2016," Kan said.

The average contract interest rate for a jumbo loan in last week's survey was 4.69%, while for a 30-year conforming mortgage (which the MBA defines as one with a balance of $453,100 or lower), the rate was 4.8%.

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