Americans filed fewer mortgage requests last week as a modest uptick in mortgage rates cooled the resurgence in loan demand seen in the prior week, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its market index, a measure of weekly mortgage activity, fell for the week ending Jan 23 by 5.2 percent to 868.9 as average 30-year mortgage rates rose 3 basis points to 5.58 percent. That compares with the previous week's 916.1, the highest level since the week ended Aug. 1.
The U.S. housing market has been a pillar of the economy, posting three straight years of record sales, in spite of a recession. It has defied repeated forecasts for a slowdown and has continued to exhibit unusual strength in the early days of 2004.
Sales of existing U.S. homes rose at a record annualized pace to 6.47 million units in December, up 6.9 percent from November, the National Association of Realtors said on Monday.
For the full year 2003, U.S. homeowners sold a record 6.1 million homes last year, beating 2002's total of 5.566 million homes by 9.6 percent.
The group's purchase index, which gauges new requests for home purchases, fell 10 percent to 451.6. That compares with last week's 501.6, the highest level reported since the group began its weekly survey in 1990.
The Washington trade group's refinancing index slipped 0.9 percent to 3,296.7 from previous week's 3,327.3, which was the highest level since the week ended Aug. 1.