January 4, 2017 / 2:32 PM / 7 months ago

U.S. mortgage activity stabilizes as loan rates slip: MBA

2 Min Read

Sold homes are seen in the southwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014.Steve Dipaola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Applications for U.S. mortgages stabilized at the end of 2016 following a recent drop as borrowing costs on home loans eased from more than two-year highs, Mortgage Bankers Association data released on Wednesday showed.

The Washington-based industry group said its measure on requests for mortgages edged up to 358.5 in the week ended Dec. 30, 0.1 percent higher than the prior week.

Interest rates on 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages, the most widely held type of U.S. home loans, averaged 4.39 percent, down from the prior week's 4.45 percent which was the highest since April 2014.

Conforming mortgages are those with balances of $417,000 or less and qualify for guarantees from federal mortgage agencies Fannie Mae (FNMA.PK) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.PK).

Interest rates on other types of mortgages were unchanged to 0.13 percentage point lower on the week.

Domestic home borrowing costs retreated along with a drop in U.S. bond yields as investors scooped up U.S. government debt at year-end following a global bond market selloff triggered by worries about a surge in inflation and federal borrowing under a Trump administration.

In early trading on Wednesday, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield US10YT=RR was 2.45 percent. It had hit 2.64 percent on Dec. 15, which was its highest since September 2014, according to Reuters data.

A pullback in mortgage rates buttressed refinancing activity at the end of 2016.

MBA's refinancing index was up 1.7 percent at 1,132.0 with the refinance share of overall loan activity rising to 52.2 percent from 51.8 percent the previous week.

The group's measure on loan applications to buy a home, which is seen as a proxy on future home sales, dipped 1.4 percent to 228.0.

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli

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