US: MBA Purchase Applications

Wed Feb 18 06:00:00 CST 2015

Actual Previous
Composite Index - W/W Change -13.2% -9.0%
Purchase Index - W/W Change -7.0% -7.0%
Refinance Index - W/W Change -16.0% -10.0%

The purchase index is down for a 5th straight week, 7.0 percent lower for the 2nd consecutive week. Rates have been rising in recent weeks including the latest week which is especially depressing refinancing activity where the index fell a very sharp 16.0 percent following the prior week's 10 percent fall. The report notes that demand for larger refinancing loans is especially down.

The average mortgage for conforming loans ($417,000 or less) rose 9 basis points in the week to 3.93 percent. The decline in the purchase index is a negative signal for underlying home sales. Watch for the housing starts report later this morning at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The Mortgage Bankers' Association compiles various mortgage loan indexes. The purchase applications index measures applications at mortgage lenders. This is a leading indicator for single-family home sales and housing construction.

This provides a gauge of not only the demand for housing, but economic momentum. People have to be feeling pretty comfortable and confident in their own financial position to buy a house. Furthermore, this narrow piece of data has a powerful multiplier effect through the economy, and therefore across the markets and your investments. By tracking economic data such as the Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications, investors can gain specific investment ideas as well as broad guidance for managing a portfolio.

Each time the construction of a new home begins, it translates to more construction jobs, and income which will be pumped back into the economy. Once a home is sold, it generates revenues for the home builder and the realtor. It brings a myriad of consumption opportunities for the buyer. Refrigerators, washers, dryers and furniture are just a few items new home buyers might purchase. The economic "ripple effect" can be substantial especially when you think a hundred thousand new households around the country are doing this every month.

Since the economic backdrop is the most pervasive influence on financial markets, housing construction has a direct bearing on stocks, bonds and commodities. In a more specific sense, trends in the MBA purchase applications index carry valuable clues for the stocks of home builders, mortgage lenders and home furnishings companies.