U.S. Markets

U.S. mortgage applications hit 10-month peak despite storms: MBA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. mortgage applications jumped to their strongest level in 10 months last week despite hurricane-related disruptions seen in Texas and Florida, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

Homes are seen under construction in the southwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Overall requests for loans to buy a home or to refinance one were stoked by cheap borrowing costs that hovered at their lowest levels since November.

The Washington-based group’s seasonally adjusted weekly index on mortgage activity climbed 9.9 percent, the biggest rise in 14 months, to 462.1 in the week ended Sept. 8. This was the highest reading since 480.5 in the week of Nov. 4, 2016.

Last week, the average interest rate on conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dipped to 4.03 percent, the lowest since November, from previous week’s 4.06 percent, the MBA said.

Conforming loans are those with balances of $424,100 or less that qualify for guarantees from federal mortgage agencies Fannie Mae FNMA.PK and Freddie Mac FMCC.PK.

Average rates on other types of home loans that the MBA tracks were anywhere from 4 basis points lower to 4 basis points higher than in the preceding week.

Borrowing costs were broadly near their lowest levels in nine months, buttressing demand for mortgages, the trade group’s data showed.

The MBA’s seasonally adjusted gauge on purchase mortgage activity, a proxy on future home sales, gained 10.9 percent to 252.0, which was the highest since June.

The group’s seasonally adjusted index on mortgage refinancing activity increased 8.9 at 1,636.8, the strongest level since November.

The share of refinancing requests versus total applications grew to 51.0 percent, the biggest since January 2017, from 50.9 percent a week earlier.

The overall strength in mortgage activity has offset the declines seen Texas and Florida.

“To illustrate the impact of the two major hurricanes, over the past two weeks, mortgage applications for the state of Texas ran about 25 percent lower than the state’s weekly average for the year to date, reflecting the impact of Hurricane Harvey.” MBA economist Joel Kan said.

“Additionally, in the most recent week we saw mortgage applications in Florida fall 48 percent lower than its 2017 weekly average, as many residents evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Irma,” he added.

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon