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Home-loan demand soars in first week of 2007

/ Source: Reuters

U.S. mortgage applications skyrocketed during the first week of 2007 as interest rates fell for the first time in five weeks, lending support to the view that the housing market is stabilizing, an industry trade group said Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and purchasing loans, jumped 16.6 percent to 671.1 for the week ended Jan. 5.

However, the monthly average shows a decline in the volume of applications for home loans, with the four-week moving average down 2 percent.

Borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, averaged 6.13 percent, down 0.09 percentage point from the previous week. Interest rates were above year-ago levels of 6.08 percent.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase index, widely considered a timely gauge of U.S. home sales, soared 16.2 percent to 472.8, its highest since the week ended Jan. 20, 2006 when it reached 473.7. The index was also above its year-ago level of 457.4.

The group's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications surged 17.3 percent to 1,923.8. A year earlier the index stood at 1,497.5.

The refinance share of applications increased to 48.4 percent from 48.1 the previous week.

Fixed 15-year mortgage rates averaged 5.85 percent, down from 5.93 percent. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) decreased to 5.79 percent from 5.84 percent.

The ARM share of activity decreased to 20.1 percent from 20.4 percent the previous week, its lowest since July 2003.

The MBA's survey covers about 50 percent of all U.S. retail residential loans. Respondents include mortgage banks, commercial banks and thrifts.