US: MBA Mortgage Applications

Wed Apr 11 06:00:00 CDT 2018

Actual Previous
Composite Index - W/W Change -1.9% -3.3%
Purchase Index - W/W Change -2.0% -2.0%
Refinance Index - W/W Change -2.0% -5.0%

Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 2 percent in the April 6 week, pushing the unadjusted Purchase Index down into negative territory for the first time this year, 0.5 percent below the level in the comparable week a year ago. Applications for refinancing also fell 2 percent from the previous week, which put the refinance share of total mortgage activity at 38.4 percent, its lowest level since September 2008. The mortgage activity decline came despite a usually supportive drop in rates, with the average interest rate on 30-year fixed rate conforming mortgages ($453,100 or less) falling by 3 basis points to 4.66 percent. Purchase applications in the red versus last year is a signal of perhaps only temporary weakness for the housing market.

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.