Mortgage applications increase on more refinancing

 

Mortgage applications increased last week with refinancings making up half the number as the housing sector's recovery slowly progresses.

Applications increased 3.6 percent from a week earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported on Wednesday.

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With mortgage rates steady, refinancing increased 7 percent last week to its highest level since the middle of April.

The gauge that measures applications for purchases declined about 1 percent from the previous week. 

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen told lawmakers last week that she is concerned about the slowdown in the housing sector's recovery. 

"One cautionary note, though, is that readings on housing activity — a sector that has been recovering since 2011 —  have remained disappointing so far this year and will bear watching," she told the Joint Economic Committee.

The National Association of Home Builders will release its housing market index on Thursday while the figures about building permits and housing starts are set to come out on Friday, which should provide a better look at what's happening in the sector. 

The average contract interest rate for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.39 percent, the lowest rate since November.

The rate for 30-year mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) remained unchanged at 4.29 percent.

The interest rate for 30-year mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Authority decreased to 4.09 percent, also the lowest rate since November.

The rate on 15-year loans dropped to 3.48 percent, also the lowest since November.