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Mortgage applications increase as rates stay under 4%

Mortgage application activity rose 1.5% compared with one week earlier as interest rates remained below 4%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The MBA's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending Nov. 22 found the refinance index increased 4% from the previous week and was 314% higher than the same week one year ago. The year-ago data is from Thanksgiving week.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 62% of total applications from 59.5% the previous week.

"Mortgage rates stayed below 4% for the second straight week and borrowers responded positively, with mortgage applications rising on the back of increases in both refinance and purchase activity," Joel Kan, the MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a press release.

"Refinances have been strong this month, but we are starting to see the average pace slow compared to the peak experienced in August through October. The annual increase in refinance and purchase activity was even more prominent in this report because Thanksgiving was a week earlier last year. However, with roughly five weeks of reporting data left in 2019, the mortgage market is on track for its best year for originations since 2007."

The MBA's most recent 2019 forecast projects 51% of fourth quarter volume and 48% of first quarter 2020 volume to be refinancings.

Total originations for this year are expected to be $2.07 trillion, a slight increase from its October estimate.

The last time originations topped $2 trillion was in 2012 at $2.04 trillion. For 2007, volume was $2.31 trillion.

The seasonally adjusted purchase index decreased 1% from one week earlier. The unadjusted purchase index increased 4% compared with the previous week and was 55% higher than the same week one year ago.

Adjustable-rate mortgage activity increased to 4.8% from 4.6% of total applications, while the share of Federal Housing Administration-insured loan applications decreased to 11.7% from 13%.

The share of applications for Veterans Affairs-guaranteed loans increased to 14.1% from 12.9% the week prior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Rural Development share remained unchanged at 0.5%.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased 2 basis points to 3.97%. For 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $484,350), the average contract rate decreased 6 basis points to 3.87%.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased 1 basis point to 3.79%. For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, the average decreased 2 basis points to 3.38%. The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 3.42% from 3.51%.

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