Mortgage purchase demand rose last week: MBA

NEW YORK Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:02am EDT

A newly built home is shown as sold in a subdivision under construction in Carlsbad, California February 21, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A newly built home is shown as sold in a subdivision under construction in Carlsbad, California February 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Demand for home purchases picked up for the third week in a row last week, though applications for refinancing sagged, an industry group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of overall mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, fell 2.4 percent in the week ended March 9.

The MBA'S gauge of loan requests for home purchases gained 4.4 percent.

The rise in demand coincided with data released last week that showed employers hired more than 200,000 workers for the third month in a row in February .

Even so, the level of applications was essentially unchanged compared with the same time last year, Michael Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, said in a statement.

"Purchase activity remains subdued and within the narrow range we have seen since the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit in 2010," said Fratantoni.

Purchase application volume for February jumped 18.0 percent from the previous month, but was still down 2.0 percent from a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications slumped 4.1 percent, while the refinance share of total mortgage activity eased to 75.1 percent of applications from 77.0 percent the week before.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates held steady at an average 4.06 percent.

The survey covers over 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.

(Reporting By Leah Schnurr; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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