U.S. mortgage applications increased for the first time in five weeks as most home borrowing costs hovered near their lowest levels in 10 months, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.
The Washington-based industry group said its seasonally adjusted gauge on loan requests to buy a home and to refinance one rose 3.6 percent to 365.3 in the week ended Feb. 15. The prior week’s reading was the lowest in a month.
"Mortgage rates held steady on mixed economic news, as core inflation remained firm, while retail sales in December were much weaker than expected. However, overall application activity picked up over the week," said Joel Kan, MBA's Associate Vice President of Industry Surveys and Forecasts.
"After four consecutive declines, purchase applications increased almost 2 percent over the week and 2.5 percent compared to a year ago - showing some promise as we edge closer to the spring homebuying season."
Added Kan, "Most rates remained close to 10-month lows, which allowed some borrowers with an incentive to refinance to capitalize. The 30-year fixed rate was essentially unchanged at 4.66 percent."
Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $484,350 or less ticked up to 4.66 percent from the prior week’s 4.65 percent, which was the lowest since March 2, 2018.
U.S. Treasury yields, which are benchmarks for most mortgages, rose last week as underlying inflation trends remained intact and traders reduced their safe-haven bond holdings on optimism that China and the United States would resolve their trade conflict.
The other mortgage rates that MBA tracks were unchanged to 8 basis points higher on the week.
“Most rates remained close to 10-month lows, which allowed some borrowers with an incentive to refinance to capitalize,” Kan said.
The group’s seasonally adjusted barometer on home refinancing requests rose 6.4 percent to 1,084.4.
The refinance share of total mortgage applications was 41.7 percent last week, compared with 41.8 percent the prior week.
MBA’s seasonally adjusted gauge on applications to buy a home, which is seen as a proxy on future housing activity, climbed 1.7 percent at 232.7 last week.
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