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Mortgage Applications Up Last Week, Reversing Five Weeks Of Decline

U.S. mortgage applications rose last week after five straight weekly declines, as lower loan rates fostered home purchases and refinancings, data from an industry trade group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its mortgage applications index climbed by a seasonally adjusted 3.6% in the week ended April 20 to 653.3, its highest level since the week ended March 23 when it hit 671.0.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.13%, excluding fees, down 0.09 percentage point from the prior week and 0.39 percentage point below the rate quoted in the same week a year ago.

The MBA's purchase index increased 3.7% to 411.0, and its refinancing gauge rose 3.6% to 2,081.6, both on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Rising loan applications could help work through some of the hefty inventory of unsold homes that most economists say is impeding a sustained U.S. housing upturn.

Sales of existing homes in March staged their biggest monthly drop in over 18 years, sliding 8.4%, the National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday. The trade group pointed to frigid winter weather that key buyers at bay.

It was also the eighth straight month that the national median home price fell, according to the NAR. Homes lingering on the market unsold swelled to a 7.3-month supply, nearing this housing cycle's peak of 7.4 months seen last October.

In a separate sign that the housing picture remains dim, prices of existing U.S. single-family homes fell in February at a pace last seen almost 15 years ago, according to a Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index on Tuesday.