Interest rates have been so low for so long that even the slightest move higher causes refinances to pull back substantially.
That's what happened last week, when applications to refinance fell and applications to buy a home rose.
As a result, total volume was basically flat, rising 0.1 percent for the week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's seasonally adjusted report.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $424,100 or less increased to 4.2 percent from 4.18 percent, with points increasing to 0.42 from 0.40, including the origination fee, for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.
"Economic indicator releases, including industrial production and weekly jobless claims, provided positive news which pushed rates up last week," said MBA economist Joel Kan.
Mortgage applications to refinance a home loan fell 5 percent last week, the report's fourth decrease in five weeks. They are now down nearly 26 percent from a year ago. Rates, however, are slightly lower now than a year ago, the first time that has happened all year. One year ago, following the presidential election, interest rates jumped.
Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 5 percent last week and now stand 4 percent higher than the same week one year ago. Homebuyers are less sensitive to these tiny, weekly rate moves. Instead, it is the severe shortage of homes for sale holding buyers back. The supply of listings at the end of October was 10 percent lower than a year ago, causing home prices to continue their run higher.
Higher prices appear to be pushing homebuyers toward adjustable rate mortgages, which can offer lower interest rates. The ARM share of total applications rose and volume now sits 8 percent higher than a year ago.