U.S. mortgage applications rise as rates ease - MBA

Sept 18 Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:00am EDT

Sept 18 (Reuters) - Applications for U.S. home loans edged up in the most recent week, off their nearly five-year lows, as interest rates eased from a 2013 high, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 11.2 percent in the week ended Sept. 13.

That follows a 13.5 percent slump last week that took the index to its lowest since November 2008, in the thick of the financial crisis.

The data come the same day as U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers meet to consider slowing a massive bond-buying program, which includes purchases of mortgage-backed securities.

The Fed will issue a statement announcing its decision at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).

The Fed's stimulus program, known as quantitative easing or QE3, has been a major boost for U.S. home prices, and many economists worry that policymakers might withdraw their aid too soon, dealing a blow to the housing recovery.

Borrowing costs have soared by more than a percentage point since late May on views the Fed will soon slow its $85 billion per month in buying of MBS and Treasuries.

MBA data showed 30-year mortgage rates eased 5 basis points to 4.75 percent, after last week matching the 4.8 percent high for 2013.

The refinancing index jumped 17.9 percent to 1,801.7 after a plunge last week brought the index to its lowest since June 2009.

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

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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