Loan Applications to Buy U.S. Homes Climb to 11-Year High

(Bloomberg) -- Loan applications to purchase U.S. homes increased to an 11-year high last week as Americans took advantage of a drop in mortgage rates to their lowest since late 2016.

The Mortgage Bankers Association’s purchase index climbed 5.3% in the week ended Jan. 24 to 313.7, the best reading since the beginning of 2009, the Washington-based group said Wednesday. The contract rate on a 30-year fixed loan fell to 3.81% from 3.87%.

Cheaper borrowing costs reflect a decline in Treasury yields as the coronavirus outbreak prompted investors to reduce equity exposure for the safety of government securities. The MBA data follow other recent reports showing strength in the housing market as well as robust earnings from the nation’s builders.

“Strong fourth-quarter demand, which has continued into the first few weeks of January, has us heading into 2020 with much higher expectations than we had at this time last year,” Ryan Marshall, chief executive officer at PulteGroup Inc., said on an earnings call Tuesday. “We are optimistic that a good macroeconomic backdrop and better affordability should keep buyer interest high in the year ahead.”

The MBA’s measure of refinancing applications also climbed, to the highest level since mid-August. The group’s overall gauge of mortgage applications was the strongest since June 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vince Golle in Washington at vgolle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Scott Lanman at slanman@bloomberg.net, Jeff Kearns

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