September 4, 2019 / 3:50 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. mortgage applications fall as trade worries offset lower rates

(Reuters) - U.S. mortgage applications to buy a home or to refinance one fell for a third straight week as borrowers’ worries about trade tensions offset a decline in some home borrowing costs, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A home is seen in the Penn Estates development where most of the homeowners are underwater on their mortgages in East Straudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The Washington-based industry group’s seasonally adjusted index on mortgage activity fell 3.1% to 558.5 in the week ended Aug. 30. It reached a three-year high in early August.

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, with conforming loan balances of $484,350 or less, decreased to 3.87%, which was the lowest since November 2016. It stood at 3.94% the week before.

Other mortgage rates MBA tracks were mixed.

“Consumers continue to act on these lower rates, but the volatility in the market is likely leading some borrowers to pause refinancing and buying decisions,” Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a statement.

The trade conflict between China and United States has shaken investor confidence, sparking a rush for U.S. Treasuries and other low-risk assets. This move pushed U.S. 30-year yields US30YT=RR to record lows a week ago.

MBA’s seasonally adjusted index on home refinancing fell 7.0% to 2,367.2 last week. It was 152% higher than a year ago.

The group’s seasonally adjusted gauge on loan applications for home purchases rose 3.6% to 242.6. It was up 4% from a year earlier.

The refinance share of mortgage activity shrank to 60.4% of total applications from 62.4% the prior week.

(Graphic: U.S. mortgages applications interactive link: here)

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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