US: MBA Mortgage Applications

Wed Mar 30 06:00:00 CDT 2016

Actual Previous
Composite Index - W/W Change -1.0% -3.3%
Purchase Index - W/W Change 2.0% -1.0%
Refinance Index - W/W Change -3.0% -5.0%

Purchase applications for home mortgages rose by 2 percent in the March 25 week, with the year-on-year increase continuing very strong at 21 percent. Refinance applications declined by 3 percent from the previous week, continuing recent softness in this component as mortgage rates, while still very low, have edged higher of late. The average rate for 30-year conforming loans ($417,000 or less) increased by 1 basis point from the prior week to 3.94 percent. Though not weak, the report does little to raise hopes of an awakening of the recently quite dormant housing market. A glimmer of such hope may have appeared after Monday's report of a surprisingly strong 3.5 percent month-to-month rise in pending home sales in February.

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.