The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications.
The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases.
The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage declined 8 basis points to 4.37% since last week while the purchase application volume declined 0.9% and the refinance application volume jumped a whopping 30.4% over the same period.
It's important to note that the average rate for a 15 year fixed rate mortgage is now sitting at the lowest level seen in at least four years.
The surge in refinance applications may have been influenced either by the looming credit downgrade (commonly reported as carrying to potential to increase interest rates) or by the recently publicized GSE loan limit resets or by both.
In any event, the purchase application volume remains near the lowest level seen in well over a decade while the surge in refinance activity is likely temporary.
The following chart shows the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages since 2006 as well as the purchase, refinance and composite loan volumes (click for larger dynamic full-screen version).