Mortgage applications were on the rise last week after posting several weeks of declines. Applications for home purchases, viewed as a leading gauge of future home buying activity, increased by 1.3 percent in the week ending Dec. 19, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday in its weekly mortgage market survey, which reflects more than 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications. 

"Purchase application volume was up slightly for the week,” says Mike Fratantoni, the MBA’s chief economist. “Conventional purchase application volume was also up on a year-over-year basis for the first time in 2014; total purchase volume was only 0.9 percent below last year's level. This makes sense in light of the continuing stream of very positive data regarding the broader economy and the job market."

Overall, mortgage applications, including both for refinancing and home purchase, rose 0.9 percent last week. Refinancing applications increased 1.1 percent.

Mortgage rates also continued to fall last week. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell from 4.06 percent to 4.02 percent, reaching the lowest average since May 2013, the MBA reports.

Source: “Encouraging Econ Data Boost Weekly Mortgage Applications,” CNBC (Dec. 24, 2014) and “Mortgage Applications Rose Last Week,” Reuters (Dec. 24, 2014)