Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week, driven by an increase in loan refinancing, an industry trade group said Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity rose 1.5 percent to 639.8 in the week ended Feb. 9.
The group's seasonally adjusted refinancing index increased by 4.5 percent to 2,031.7, overshadowing the 1 percent dip in the MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase index to 400.7.
All three measures posted slim declines on a seasonally adjusted four-week moving average, but were above year-ago levels.
The seasonally adjusted four-week average for the market index, which measures mortgage loan application volume, was 1.1 percent lower at 628.1, but up from 574.1 in the same week a year ago.
The purchase index average was down 2.4 percent on a four-week moving average at 404.0 and up slightly from 391.7 a year earlier.
Meanwhile, the refinance index was off 0.2 percent at 1,941.0 on a four-week average, but well above a reading of 1,636.7 in the same week a year ago.
Borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, were little changed at 6.24 percent, compared with 6.23 percent the prior week, according to the MBA.
The adjustable-rate mortgage share of applications slipped to 21.2 percent from 22.3 percent, while the overall refinancing share of total loan requests was unchanged at 46.1 percent.
The MBA's survey covers about half of all U.S. retail residential loans. Respondents include mortgage banks, commercial banks and thrifts.
More signs about the health of the U.S. housing sector, which drove the economy for most of this decade before starting to sour in the summer of 2005, will come from the National Association of Home Builders on Thursday and the Commerce Department on Friday.
Housing starts climbed 4.5 percent in December but posted the biggest decline in 15 years for all of 2006, the Commerce Department reported last month.
January housing starts and building permits will be reported on Friday, a day after the homebuilder sentiment reading for February.
Price cuts, lower mortgage rates and incentives have helped builders trim inventories of unsold homes, but the supply remains burdensome, according to industry analysts.