Demand for purchase loans up 16 percent from a year ago

By Inman News, Thursday, February 7, 2013.

Mortgage rates settled down this week at levels well below historic norms after surging during the last week of January.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.53 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending Feb. 7, unchanged from last week and down from 3.87 percent a year ago, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans hit a low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 3.31 percent during the week ending Nov. 21, 2012.

For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, rates averaged 2.77 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 2.81 percent last week and 3.16 percent a year ago. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans hit a low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1991 of 2.63 percent during the week ending Nov. 21, 2012.

Rates on five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 2.63 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 2.7 percent last week and 2.83 percent a year ago. Rates on five-year ARM loans have never been lower in Freddie Mac records dating to 2005.

For one-year Treasury-indexed ARM loans, rates averaged 2.53 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from 2.59 percent last week and 2.78 percent a year ago. Rates on one-year ARM loans hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 2.52 percent during the week ending Dec. 20, 2012.

Looking back a week, a survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans during the week ending Feb. 1 was up a seasonally adjusted 2 percent from the week before, and 16 percent from a year ago, to the highest level since May 2010.

To make borrowing more affordable, the Federal Reserve continues to buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each month.

A Fed policymaking committee said on Jan. 30 that the MBS purchases, announced in September, will continue until the outlook for unemployment improves “substantially.”

Although January’s employment numbers were mostly positive — the economy gained 157,000 jobs — the unemployment rate ticked up from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent, “which is still historically high,” said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft in a statement.