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NEW YORK, March 1 (Reuters) - U.S. application activity to refinance a mortgage climbed to its highest level since mid-December as 30-year home borrowing costs declined to their lowest in six weeks, Mortgage Bankers Association data released on Wednesday showed.
The Washington-based industry group said its seasonally adjusted measure of loan applications for mortgage refinancing rose 5.1 percent to 1,290.8 in the week ended Feb. 24. This was the highest since 1,449.4 in the week ended Dec 12.
Interest rates on 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages, the most widely held type of U.S. home loan, averaged 4.30 percent, down from 4.36 percent the prior week. It was up about half a percentage point from a year earlier.
Conforming loans are those with balances of $424,100 or less and qualify for guarantees from federal mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Last week, mortgage rates fell in step with benchmark U.S. Treasury yields, which dropped to five-week lows on political worries about Europe and a soft batch of U.S. economic data.
Mortgage rates on other types of home loans that the MBA tracks were broadly lower from the prior week.
The share of refinancing applications fell to its smallest since November 2008 at 45.1 percent in the latest week from 46.2 percent, the Washington-based industry group said.
The MBA's seasonally adjusted gauge on purchase application activity, a proxy for future home sales, rebounded from its lowest level since November. It was up 6.5 percent from the prior week at 231.0.
The group's barometer on overall mortgage activity on a seasonally adjusted basis rose 5.8 percent in the latest week to 392.9.
Mortgage applications "are showing signs of life in response to lower-trending mortgage rates over the previous few weeks. To be sure, we are hardly seeing any sort of refi or purchase wave," Walt Schmidt, FTN Financial's head of mortgage strategy, wrote in a research note.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon