NEW YORK - Mortgage loan application volume fell last week and mortgage rates edged higher, an industry group said Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its weekly mortgage index, which measures the volume of applications for loans to buy or refinance homes, fell by a seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent in the week ended March 30.
The MBA's index that measures applications to borrow to buy a home fell 2 percent, while the index of refinancing applications was off 4.5 percent. A persistent decline in housing prices has made it more difficult for homeowners to refinance their mortgages in recent months. That type of borrowing and subsequent consumer spending is widely credited with fueling economic growth in past quarters.
The MBA's four-week moving average for all three indexes fell last week.
Meanwhile, the association said the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 6.13 percent from 6.04 percent, leading a rise in all types of borrowing, including adjustable-rate mortgages.
The rates remain relatively low on a historic basis, but mortgage lenders have been tightening lending criteria in recent months after a surge in defaults and foreclosures on the subprime market led to a spate of bankruptcies and writedowns.
The mortgage data sends a mixed signal to investors after they got positive news Tuesday from the National Association of Realtors. The trade group's index for pending sales of existing homes increased in February faster than the market had been expecting. The data supported theories that the sector, while weak, is not being pummeled by the struggling subprime sector.