NEW YORK (Reuters) - A measure of U.S. mortgage application activity rose last week, led by a spike in requests for loans to buy homes, as mortgage rates climbed to their highest since January, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed on Wednesday.

The Washington-based MBA's seasonally adjusted mortgage market index rose 5.5 percent to 460.3 in the week ended Nov. 18. In the previous week, it stood at 436.3, the lowest since the week of Jan. 15.

Mortgage rates have risen in step with rising U.S. Treasury yields as traders reduced their bond holdings on inflation worries due to stronger-than-forecast economic data and bets on a surge in federal borrowing under a Trump presidency.

Some analysts said they expected a rush among potential homeowners to lock in mortgages rates in anticipation of borrowing costs possibly heading even higher.


"The increase in purchase activity was driven by borrowers seeking larger loans and that drove up the average loan amount on home purchase applications to $310,000, the highest in the survey, which dates back to 1990,” Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, said in a statement.

The group's seasonally adjusted index on mortgage applications to buy a home rose to 234.1, up 18.8 percent, its biggest weekly increase since Oct. 2, 2015. In the previous week, the purchase mortgage index hit its lowest since January.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted gauge on refinancing requests fell 3.1 percent to 1,754.2, the lowest since the Jan. 15 week.

The refinance share of overall mortgage activity declined to 58.2 percent from 61.9 percent in the previous week.

Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $417,000 or less averaged 4.16 percent, their highest since January. In the previous week, they averaged 3.95 percent, the MBA said.

The average interest rate on 30-year "jumbo" mortgages, whose loan balances are greater than $417,000, was 4.04 percent, the highest since January and up from 3.95 percent in the prior week.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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