NEW YORK — Mortgage applications declined for the fourth straight week, as falling demand to refinance home loans outweighed a rise in applications to buy houses, an industry group said Wednesday.
Borrowing costs increased for all loan types last week, with the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans climbing to a six-week peak.
Thirty-year fixed home loan rates last week rose 0.03 percentage point to 6.16%, excluding fees, matching the rate of the Feb. 23 week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.
The MBA said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage applications dipped 0.4% to 646.6 last week.
The MBA’s seasonally adjusted purchase index, an indicator of home sales, rose 2.7% to 413.8 last week.
The refinancing applications index dropped for the fourth straight week, declining 4.0% to 2,015.0, its lowest level since late February.
Mortgage rates are at a six-week high but well below levels reached a year ago.
Unless the job market and the economy slump, relatively low long-term borrowing costs could help spur a housing rebound late in the year, many economists say.
Warmer spring weather typically brings buyers back to the market. This year, potential home purchasers will find a huge supply of unsold houses at prices perhaps much lower than the last time they shopped.
Any big cracks in the spring sales season could delay a housing recovery already stalled by trouble in the subprime mortgage sector. Subprime mortgage lenders have tightened standards, making it more difficult for borrowers with weak credit to get home loans.
“The spring housing season is key to the broader outlook and early indications appear weak,” according to a Bank of America report this week. Second-half economic growth “depends crucially” on home sales in the second quarter, the firm said.
Lighter shopper traffic than expected, downward price momentum and tighter lending standards suggest a soft March to kick off the spring selling season, the report said.
On a four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility, the MBA said its market and refinancing measures declined and the purchase index was little changed.
On that basis, the seasonally adjusted market index was 1.6% lower at 659.8, the purchase index stood at 409.6 compared with 409.7, and the refinancing gauge was down 3.4% at 2,129.9.