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Mortgage application activity bounced back from the holiday-shortened prior week but is still running significantly below historic levels. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said its Market Composite Index, a measure of application volume, increased 5.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended September 15. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 16 percent compared with the week that started with Labor Day. The Refinance Index rose 13 percent week-over-week and was 29 percent lower than the same week in 2022. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 31.6 percent of total applications from 29.1 percent the previous week. [refiappschart] The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index gained 2.0 percent compared to the prior week. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 12 percent and was 26 percent lower than the same week one year ago. [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage applications increased last week, despite the 30-year fixed rate edging back up to 7.31 percent – its highest level in four weeks,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “Purchase applications increased for conventional and FHA loans over the week but remained 26 percent lower than the same week a year ago, as homebuyers continue to face higher rates and limited for-sale inventory , which have made purchase conditions more challenging. Refinance applications also increased last week but are still almost 30 percent lower than the same week last year.”
Results of the August Residential Construction report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were decidedly mixed. While permits were issued at a rate higher than anticipated, housing starts sunk to the lowest level since June 2020, Construction was started on residential units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.283 million, an 11.3 percent decline from the July level of 1.447 million units. Further, the earlier results represent a downward revision from the original estimate of 1.452 million. Both Econoday and Trading Economics had consensus forecasts of 1.44 million units. Starts were 14.8 percent lower than in August 2022. Single-family starts were down 4.3 percent from July to an annual rate of 941,000. This, however, was 2.3 percent higher than the level a year prior. Multifamily starts plunged 26.3 percent month-over-month and 41.0 percent on an annual basis to a rate of 334,000 units. Permits for residential construction rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.543 million units, a 6.9 percent increase from the 1.443 million rate in July and the highest level in ten months. Permits were, however, still down 2.7 percent on an annual basis. The number was about 100,000 units higher than consensus estimates. Construction permits were issued for 949,000 single-family homes on an annualized basis, a 2.0 percent increase from July and 7.2 percent more than a year earlier. Multifamily permits were 14.8 percent higher than the prior month but, at an annualized 535,000 units, down 17.7 percent from August 2022.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said on Monday that its index that measures home builder confidence in the new home market has fallen below the halfway mark for the first time since April. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index declined 5 points in December. Coupled with its 6-point drop in August, the index has erased five months of gains. NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz said, “The two-month decline in builder sentiment coincides with when mortgage rates jumped above 7 percent and significantly eroded buyer purchasing power. And on the supply-side front, builders continue to grapple with shortages of construction workers, buildable lots and distribution transformers , which is further adding to housing affordability woes. Insurance cost and availability is also a growing concern for the housing sector.” Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 35 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor. All three major HMI indices posted declines in September and two of the three are now below the break-even point. The HMI indices gauging current sales conditions and those over the next six months each fell 6 points to 51 and 49 respectively. The component measuring traffic prospective buyer traffic was down 5 points to 30.