The total number of mortgage applications filed in the U.S. last week fell 12% from the prior week as interest rates jumped to their highest level in two years, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.
The refinance index decreased 16% for the week ended June 28 from the previous week, according to the weekly survey covering more than three-quarters of all U.S. residential-mortgage applications. MBA also reported the seasonally adjusted purchasing index slipped 3% from a week earlier.
Interest rates have increased in recent weeks amid stronger economic data, curbing some individuals' appetite to buy a new home. Mike Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, said fewer homeowners have an incentive to refinance at the current interest rates. Refinance-application volume dropped more than 15% last week.
The share of applications filed to refinance an existing mortgages decreased to 64%, the lowest level since May 2011, from the prior week's 67%. Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, increased to 8% of total applications, the highest level since July 2008. The Home Affordable Refinance Program share of refinance applications rose to 34% from 30% in the prior week.
The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances climbed to 4.58%, the highest rate since October 2011, from the prior week's 4.46%. Rates on similar mortgages with jumbo-loan balances rose to 4.68%, the highest rate since March 2012, from 4.52% a week earlier. The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration increased to 4.27%, the highest rate since September 2011, from 4.2% a week earlier.
The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed to 3.64%, the highest level since July 2011, from 3.55% a week earlier. The 5/1 ARM average rate rose to its highest level since July 2011, jumping to 3.33% from 3.06% a week earlier.
Write to Nathalie Tadena at firstname.lastname@example.org
New home sales rose in May to the fastest pace in five years, adding to signs of a steadily improving housing market.
Sales increased 2.1 percent in May compared with April, according to the Commerce Department, which said the new homes sales rate was at the highest level since July 2008.
Earlier on Tuesday, the S&P/Case-Shiller survey of 20 major metro areas reported a strong increase in average home prices with prices rising in all 20 cities.
"We're definitely seeing some good news and some very strong numbers," David Blitzer of S&P Dow Jones Indices told ABC News.
The average of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index was up by 12.1 percent from last year.
"That's the best number in seven years," says Blitzer. April's price rise compared to March was the strongest monthly gain in 13 years. The strongest increases came in California and the Southwest.
Blitzer said last week's comments from the Federal Reserve that it may begin tapering bond purchases as early as this year and the resulting sharp increase in Treasury yields sparked fears that rising mortgage rates will damage the housing rebound.
"Home buyers have survived rising mortgage rates in the past, often by shifting from fixed rate to adjustable rate loans," Blitzer said in a statement. "In the housing boom, bust and recovery, banks' credit quality standards were more important than the level of mortgage rates. The most recent Fed Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey shows that some banks are easing credit restrictions. Given this, the recovery should continue."
Zillow's chief economist Stan Humphries said the S&P/Case-Shiller numbers may reflect where the housing market has been in some of the frothier metros, "but they are not indicative of where it's headed."
"The housing market worm has turned over the past few weeks – inventory levels are beginning to show signs of easing, and mortgage interest rates are creeping up. Going forward, both of these factors will help mitigate extreme price spikes caused by very strong housing demand and very low housing supply," said Humphries.
Overall, the national housing recovery is "strong and sustainable," Humphries said, but there will be pockets of volatility.
"Buyers expecting home values to continue rising at this pace indefinitely may be in for a shock," he said.
Another report showed improvement in the manufacturing sector.
American businesses stepped up their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in May, according to the Commerce Department. Durable goods orders last month rose 3.6 percent, matching April's gain. Most of the increase was due to a surge in commercial aircraft orders, which tend to fluctuate sharply from month to month. Still, businesses also ordered more computers, communications equipment, machinery and metals.
Many housing bears think that the recent increase in mortgage rates is the beginning of the end for the Canadian housing market. I’m not convinced; here are some reasons why.
Fixed-mortgage rates have gone up because they are tied to bond yields, which have been rising lately. That’s because investors are selling bonds and other defensive holdings on signs the North American economy is gaining momentum. In such an environment, they would rather have more of their portfolios in cyclical and growth investments.
What’s also to be expected as the economy gathers steam is growth in employment and household incomes. Importantly for housing, this will serve as an offset to the drag of rising interest rates.
Fears about tumbling house prices at the national level thus seem overblown at this stage. In fact, a recent empirical study found that the majority of increases between 1980 and mid-2010 did not undermine house prices.
Furthermore, variable-rate mortgages, which are linked to the Bank of Canada’s lending rate, won’t be increased until late 2014 according to Bay Street forecasts and futures markets. This should help keep housing affordable while employment and income move into a more supportive position.
Actually, mortgage rates hikes are initially positive for the housing market. They encourage prospective buyers to get off the fence and buy a home in hopes of avoiding further increases.
But it’s premature to say an uptrend in fixed-mortgage rates has started. Usually more than one or two upticks are required. And whether or not we get many more jumps in bond yields is debatable. For one thing, the Federal Reserve will be working hard to head off such increases (or rein them back in) through announcements and actions that allay bondholder jitters over too-rapid an uptake in economic activity. The U.S. Federal Reserve has already started the process by jawboning about its plans to taper off monetary stimulus.
Even if an uptrend were to emerge, Canada has a greater capacity to absorb increases than the U.S. had in 2007. Close to three-quarters of Canadian homeowners now have fixed-rate mortgages, so rate increases feed slowly into the market since only a portion come due each year. In 2007, about 75 per cent of U.S. mortgages had variable rates and the Fed was aggressively driving them up.
Source: The Globe and Mail