June 3, 2009 / 11:04 AM / 8 years ago

US mortgage applications down as rates surge higher

3 Min Read

NEW YORK, June 3 (Reuters) - U.S. mortgage applications fell last week, reflecting a plunge in demand for home refinancing loans as interest rates surged to their highest levels since late-January, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage applications USMGM=ECI, which includes both purchase and refinance loans, for the week ended May 29 decreased 16.2 percent to 658.7.

Tom Marano, chief executive of mortgage operations at GMAC, in an exclusive interview with Reuters on Tuesday, said home loan volume at GMAC is about 75 percent lower now than when mortgage rates hit record lows several months ago. For details, double-click on [ID:nN04401338]

"Up until the past week and a half, the Federal Reserve had been successful at bringing interest rates on mortgages down," he said.

Borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, averaged 5.25 percent, up 0.44 percentage point from the previous week, its highest level since the week ended Jan. 30.

It was also significantly higher than the all-time low of 4.61 percent set in the week ended March 27. The survey has been conducted weekly since 1990. Interest rates, however, were well below year-ago levels of 6.17 percent.

Thirty-year mortgage rates had mostly been on a downward trend since the Fed unveiled its plan to buy mortgage-backed debt in late November. But the Fed has met resistance in the bond market.

Treasury yields, which are linked to mortgage rates, have risen sharply in recent weeks, and mortgage rates have responded in kind.

However, demand for home purchase loans, an indicator of home sales, rose last week. The increase may help gauge how the hard-hit U.S. housing market is faring this spring, the peak home buying season.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase index USMGPI=ECI rose 4.3 percent to 267.7.

The four-week moving average of mortgage applications, which smooths the volatile weekly figures, was down 9.0 percent.

Weekly Refinancing Activity Plunges

The U.S. housing market is in the worst downturn since the Great Depression and its impact has rippled through the recession-hit economy, as well as the rest of the world. Economists contend that the economy might not emerge from its slump unless the housing market stabilizes.

The Mortgage Bankers seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications USMGR=ECI decreased 24.1 percent to 2,953.6.

The refinance share of applications decreased to 62.4 percent from 69.3 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased to 3.0 percent in the latest week, up from 2.6 percent the previous week.

Fixed 15-year mortgage rates averaged 4.80 percent, up from 4.44 percent the previous week. Rates on one-year ARMs increased to 6.61 percent from 6.55 percent.

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