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U.S. mortgage rates rise to highest levels in over two years: MBA

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Interest rates on U.S. fixed-rate mortgages rose to their highest levels in more than two years, sending weekly home loan application activity to its weakest since early January, Mortgage Bankers Association data released on Wednesday showed.

The Washington-based industry group said 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgages averaged 4.27 percent, the highest level since October 2014.

The average rate on 30-year conforming loans with balances of $417,000 or less, which mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee <FNMA.PK> <FMCC.PK>, was 4.23 percent in the prior week.

Interest rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.53 percent, their highest since September 2014.

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MBA's seasonally adjusted mortgage market index declined 0.7 percent in the week ended Dec. 2 to 414.1, the lowest since 398.5 in the week of Jan. 8.

Weekly mortgage activity excluding seasonal factors, however, jumped 39 percent from the previous week, MBA said.

Home borrowing costs have climbed with a surge in U.S. 10-year Treasury bond yields <US10YT=RR>, which hit their highest levels since July 2015 last week, following Donald Trump's U.S. presidential election victory.

Traders have bet on faster economic growth and inflation if Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress enact big tax cuts and federal spending, together with stricter trade policies.

The spike in 30-year mortgage rates, which have risen about 0.50 percentage point since the Nov. 8 election, has reduced refinancing activity.

MBA's seasonally adjusted refinancing index dipped 0.7 percent to 1,459.3 last week, its lowest level since early January.

On the other hand, the group's seasonal gauge on applications to buy a home, seen as a proxy on future home sales, edged up 0.4 percent to 234.5.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Nick Zieminski)