Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MBA: Mortgage Refinance Activity Increases, Purchase Activity Declines "Sharply"

by Bill McBride on 8/17/2011 08:03:00 AM

The MBA reports: Refinance Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey

The Refinance Index increased 8.0 percent from the previous week, but was 16.3 percent lower than the same week last year. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 9.1 percent from one week earlier.
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"Unprecedented volatility in the stock market last week amid additional signs that the economy has slowed led to further drops in mortgage rates, with the 15-year rate reaching a new low for the MBA survey," said Mike Fratantoni, MBA's Vice President of Research and Economics. "Purchase application activity fell sharply over the previous week, likely the result of potential homebuyers hesitant to purchase in this highly volatile and uncertain environment."

Fratantoni continued, "Refinance application volume increased substantially for the week, although there was substantial variation across the market. In September MBA's Weekly Applications Survey will transition to an expanded sample that covers 75% of the retail market rather than the current sample that covers roughly 50% of the retail market. That expanded sample showed a significantly larger increase in refinance applications than the current sample, with some lenders reporting increases in refinance applications in excess of 50 percent for the week. The big differences in refinance volumes were likely driven by the decisions of some lenders not to drop rates last week, largely due to the need to manage their pipelines."
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The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.32 percent from 4.37 percent, with points decreasing to 0.87 from 1.07 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans.
The following graph shows the MBA Purchase Index and four week moving average since 1990.

MBA Purchase Index Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

The four week average of the purchase index has been moving down recently and is at about 1997 levels. Of course this doesn't include the large number of cash buyers ... but purchase application activity was especially weak last week.