MBA: Apps Are Down, but HARP Activity Continues

Home loan applications tracked by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest weekly Market Composite Index dropped by 4.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis, but the rate-driven decrease might have been more severe if the Home Affordable Refinance Program had not continued bolster app volumes.

“The announcement of stronger-than-anticipated job growth last week led to an increase in interest rates, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate in our survey reaching the highest level in more than six months,” Mike Fratantoni, the MBA’s vice president of research, said in the group’s survey report for the week ending March 8. “Refinance applications declined as a result, but remain high given the steady flow of HARP applications.”

The average contract interest rate for conforming, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with loan balances of $417,500 or less was 3.81% during the period, the highest rate since August of last year. This was up from 3.7% the previous week. Average points, including the origination fee, remained at 0.39 of a point for mortgages with 80% loan-to-value ratios.

Jumbo 30-year FRMs with balances above $417,500 experienced a 10 basis point increase in average rates to 3.9% as well as an increase in average points to 0.46 of a point from 0.37 of a point for 80% LTV loans.

Thirty-year Federal Housing Administration-backed loan rates increased to 3.53% from 3.47%, with points rising to 0.46 of a point from 0.37 of a point.

The average contract rate for 15-year FRMs rose to 3.01% from 2.96%, with points increasing to 0.42 of a point from 0.36% of a point for 80% LTV loans.

The refinance share of mortgage activity fell to 76% of total apps, the lowest level since May of last year. This was down from 77% the previous week. HARP share of refi apps was up at 30%, compared to 28% the previous week.

On an unadjusted basis, the overall Market Composite Index was down slightly less than it was on a seasonally adjusted basis at 4% on a weekly basis. In addition to what the Refinance Index showed was a 5% decline in refis, the Purchase Index also was down on both a seasonally adjusted and unadjusted basis at 3% and 1%, respectively. However, compared to a year ago, the Purchase Index was up 9%.

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