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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Wednesday Preview

by Calculated Risk on 9/04/2012 08:06:00 PM

I've been puzzling over the MBA purchase index (to be released tomorrow). This index has mostly been moving sideways and hasn't indicated any pickup in home purchases. However there are other indicators (the Fed's recent Senior Loan Officer survey) that suggest there has been an increase in purchase activity.

It is probably worth asking if the data is being impacted by changes in behavior or in the sample. I don't know the answer, but the MBA index has been impacted by changes before.

First here is an excerpt from a Reuters article in October 2006: Greenspan: Housing market worst may be over

The U.S. housing market appears to be emerging from its recent travails and the “worst may well be over,” former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was quoted as saying on Friday.

“I suspect that we are coming to the end of this downtrend, as applications for new mortgages, the most important series, have flattened out,” Greenspan said at an event in Calgary, Canada ...
Of course Greenspan was wrong (as I noted at the time). Here was what I previously wrote: "In mid-2006, the MBA index did flatten out, and in late 2006 the index increased (and increased further in 2007). At that time I spoke with some mortgage brokers, and there was clear evidence of homebuyers applying for mortgages with multiple brokers - this lead to some double counting by the MBA. And in late 2006 the increase was because mortgage brokers started going out of business (this skewed the data, because the MBA samples only certain large brokers – and the large brokers were getting more applications as the weaker companies went under). I identified these flaws and stopped using the MBA index, but Greenspan blindly used the index and drew the wrong conclusion."

Now I'm wondering if the index is being impacted by another change in the mix. Here was an interesting article today from Jon Prior at HousingWire: Credit union mortgage lending doubles in California
California credit unions took advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance Program and originated twice as many home loans in second quarter than the previous three months.
Chris Collver, senior regulatory analyst for CANV, said the trend will continue as large firms grow more conservative or exit the more exotic mortgage business entirely.

Credit unions took up about 2% of the space in 2005. That grew to 6.7% of the home credit market in 2011, according to Collver.
Prior's article is focused on refinancing (the MBA Purchase index is for purchases, not refinance activity). But I wonder if some lenders who are not surveyed by the MBA are seeing an increase in activity? It is a puzzle ...

On Tuesday:
• At 7:00 AM ET, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the mortgage purchase applications index.

• At 8:30 AM, the BLS will released Productivity and Costs for Q2. The consensus is for a 1.4% increase in unit labor costs.

• At 10:00 AM, the Trulia Price and Rent Monitors for August will be released. This is the new index from Trulia that uses asking prices adjusted both for the mix of homes listed for sale and for seasonal factors.