Mortgage rates continued to remain at record low levels during the November 30 week. Freddie Mac's Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported an average 30-year fixed-rate increase of one basis point from last week's record low, to 3.32 percent. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage average also increased a basis point to 2.64 percent, up from its record low last week of 2.63 percent.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a second consecutive weekly decline in mortgage and refinance applications which fell 0.9 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively. Mortgage and refinance applications continued to decline despite the lower rates which economists still attribute to overly tightened lending standards.
The MBA's Purchase Index gained 3.0 percent for the week. The Purchase Index has gained in eight of the last eleven weeks for a cumulative increase of 9.0 percent in the period following the Federal Open Market Committee's QE3 announcement.
Market highlights for the week included improved housing price index reports and news releases on new and pending home sales.
S&P/Case-Shiller and the Federal Housing Finance Agency both reported housing price gains in the third quarter.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index reported improvements in all three of its index components. Annually, the National Index increased 3.6 percent, the 10-City Index increased 2.1 percent and the 20-City Index increased 3.0 percent.
Quarterly non-seasonally adjusted levels were also higher. The National Index gained 2.2 percent, the 10-City Index gained 2.6 percent and the 20-City Index gained 2.7 percent.
The 10-City and 20-City Indexes, measured monthly, increased 0.3 percent in September.
FHFA's Housing Price Index also reported similar improvements. Annually, the Index gained 4.0 percent. On a quarterly seasonally adjusted basis, the Index gained 1.1 percent, with a 0.2 percent gain in September.
Housing market sales reports also continued to trend upward according to the week's reports.
The Commerce Department reported a 17.2 percent increase in annual new home sales for the October 2011 to October 2012 period. On a monthly basis, new home sales decreased slightly due to affects from Hurricane Sandy. In October new home sales fell 0.3 percent versus a 5.7 percent increase in September.
Contracts signed on existing-homes in October were not as greatly affected by damages from Hurricane Sandy. October pending home sales, reported by the National Association of Realtors, gained 5.2 percent.
Overall, housing market data continued to trend towards Freddie Mac's 5-year full recovery estimates. Mortgage rates continued to remain at low levels while annual new and existing home sales rates improved. Hurricane Sandy appeared to affect new home sales slightly in October and could add some drag to market improvements in the short-term if damages continue to slow activity.