Weekly mortgage applications rise 1.6%

Interest rates pulled back slightly last week, but it was enough to push mortgage volume higher.

Total applications rose 1.6 percent week to week on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ending June 19, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Volume is now 10.9 percent higher than a year ago.

Refinance applications, which are more rate-sensitive, rose 2 percent for the week seasonally adjusted, and are up just over 4 percent from a year ago, when interest rates were slightly higher. Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose just 1 percent from the previous week, but are 18 percent higher than a year ago.

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"The 18 percent [annual] gain in purchase application volume is yet another sign of growing strength in the housing market following this week's stronger numbers on new and existing home sales," said Michael Fratantoni, the association's chief economist.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) fell to 4.19 percent from 4.22 percent for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.

Adjustable-rate mortgages are continuing to trend higher. ARMs, which offer much lower rates at higher risk, increased to 7 percent of total applications, the highest level since December 2014. ARMs made up more than one-third of the mortgage market during the housing boom but dropped off dramatically when banks shored up underwriting standards and interest rates dropped to historic lows. The average interest rate on a five-year ARM last week fell to 3.04 percent.

The respite from rising rates, though, may have reversed yet again. Some lenders moved higher Tuesday while others increased closing costs following higher yields in the U.S. bond markets, which rates loosely follow.

"Despite the narrow range and the fact that 'low 4's' are historically low rates, consumers seeking mortgages are not amused," wrote Matthew Graham of Mortgage News Daily. "Even when the only day-over-day change is in closing costs, a move like [Tuesday's] can mean that a borrower seeking a $300,000 loan is now looking at another $1200 in closing costs, simply because they held off on locking (or were unable to lock) yesterday."