Mortgage applications decrease as refi activity hits 18-year low

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Mortgage application activity decreased 0.1% from one week earlier as refinance volume tanked, although interest rates fell, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The MBA's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending Nov. 16 found that the refinance index decreased 5% from the previous week to its lowest level since December 2000. This week's results do not include an adjustment for the Veterans' Day holiday.

"Mortgage applications saw mixed results last week," Joel Kan, the MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a press release. "Purchase applications increased to their highest level in five weeks, but despite the pause in rates, refinance activity dropped again and remained at its lowest level since 2000."

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 38.5% of total applications from 39.4% the previous week.

The seasonally adjusted purchase index increased 3% from one week earlier, while the unadjusted purchase index decreased 1% compared with the previous week and was 5% lower than the same week one year ago.

"Treasury rates declined last week, as equity markets continued to see large swings amidst investor concerns over global economic growth," said Kan. "As a result, mortgage rates inched back across most loan types, including the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, 5/1 ARM and 30-year jumbo mortgage rate. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage also declined, stopping a run of six straight weekly increases."

Adjustable-rate loan activity decreased to 7.3% from 7.7% of total applications, while the share of Federal Housing Administration-guaranteed loans increased to 10.7% from 10.6% the week prior.

The share of applications for Veterans Affairs-guaranteed loans increased to 10.6% from 10.1% and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Rural Development share remained unchanged at 0.7% from the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) decreased 1 basis point to 5.16%. For 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $453,100), the average contract rate decreased 10 basis points to 4.88%.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA remained unchanged at 5.08%. For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, the average decreased 4 basis points to 4.53%.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 4.24% from 4.45%.

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Mortgage applications Purchase Refinance Mortgage rates Mortgage Bankers Association FHA The VA