U.S. mortgage demand to buy homes hits six-month low: MBA

August 17, 2016 8:29 AM EDT

Sold homes are seen in the southwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Weekly applications for U.S. mortgages to buy homes slipped to a six-month low even as interest rates on fixed-rate home loans fell, according to data from an industry group released on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage activity for home purchases, a leading indicator of housing sales, fell 4 percent in the week ended Aug. 12. It remained 10 percent higher than the comparable week a year earlier.

The average rate on "conforming" 30-year home mortgages, or loans with balances of $417,000 or less, dipped to 3.64 percent last week from 3.65 percent, the Washington-based group said.

The average 30-year rate touched 3.60 percent in the week ended July 8, which was the lowest since May 2013 and not far from the historic low of 3.47 percent struck in December 2012, according to MBA data.

Weekly mortgage activity on home purchases reached an eight-month peak in early June before a decline since even as 30-year mortgage rates hovered near their lowest in over three years.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department said housing starts rose 2.1 percent to an annualized rate of 1.211 million units in July, which was a five-month high.

Applications for loans to refinance also fell last week.

MBA's seasonally adjusted index on mortgage activity for refinancing decreased 4 percent from the prior week. In early July, it hit its highest level since June 2013.

The share of weekly refinancing requests was 62.6 percent of total applications, compared with 62.4 percent the previous week, the Washington-based group said.

The group said its seasonally adjusted index of total mortgage activity also declined by 4 percent in the latest week. It reached a three-year high a month earlier.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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