Mortgage Purchase Applications Slide to 15-Year Low

U.S. home mortgage applications for purchases fell to a nearly 15-year low last week as resurgent worries about the strength of the economy kept buyers at bay, an industry group said Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, fell 2.4% in the week ended Aug. 19.

The seasonally adjusted gauge of loan requests for home purchases tumbled 5.7% to its lowest level since December 1996, the MBA said. Refinance demand also sagged as interest rates rose, with the refinance index slipping 1.7%.

``Another week of volatile markets and rampant uncertainty regarding the economy kept prospective homebuyers on the sidelines, with purchase applications falling to a 15-year low,'' Mike Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, said in a statement.

``This decline impacted borrowers across the board, with purchase applications for jumbo loans falling by more than 15% and purchase applications for the government housing programs falling by 8.2%.''

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 79.8% of total applications from 78.8% the week before.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.3%, up from 4.32%.