It took a few weeks, but borrowers finally took notice of a drop in mortgage interest rates.
After falling for a month, mortgage application volume jumped 4.1 percent last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's seasonally adjusted report. Volume was 2 percent lower than a year ago, largely due to weakness in refinances.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) decreased to 4.75 percent from 4.84 percent, with points decreasing to 0.46 from 0.47 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans. That is the lowest rate since the week ending April 20.
Mortgage rates began rising at the start of this year and moved sharply higher in early April. The pullback in rates began two weeks ago. Mortgage rates loosely follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond.
"Concerns over Italy's political turmoil, and questions about the possible imposition of trade tariffs by the U.S. on its major trade partners, pushed Treasury rates lower this week," said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. "While the level of refinance activity remains historically low, the reprieve in rate increases may have stopped the slide."
Applications to refinance a home loan increased 4 percent from the previous week, but were 17 percent lower than a year ago. Interest rates were lower last spring.
Mortgage applications to purchase a home also increased 4 percent for the week and were 9 percent higher than a year ago. Homebuyers today are facing a short supply of homes for sale and fast-rising prices. Higher mortgage rates were only adding to the pain, so the brief drop may have gotten some potential buyers off the fence.
Buyers are also turning to mortgage products that offer lower rates. The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased to 7.1 percent of total applications. ARMs offer lower rates for shorter, fixed terms. They then adjust higher or lower, depending on the market conditions.
Mortgage rates did begin moving higher again at the end of last week and into this week. Rates are expected to move steadily higher this year, despite temporary fluctuations.
"While rates are like any other financial instrument whose future can't be predicted, they do tend to pause and congregate at some levels more than others," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily. "We'll often see rising rates repeatedly run into a ceiling that goes on to become a floor in the future."