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Mortgage Credit Guidelines Ease

MCAI up 2% in January

Feb. 11, 2014

By Mortgage Daily staff

Home lenders relaxed credit standards last month. The easing was concentrated in jumbo mortgage lending and refinance originations.

The Mortgage Credit Availability Index, an indication of credit conditions in real estate finance, was 112.95 in January.

The index was reported Tuesday by the Mortgage Bankers Association based on data from AllRegs.

MBA says the index is the "only standardized quantitative index that is solely focused on mortgage credit."

Last month's index level was 2 percent better than in December 2013, when the MCAI was 110.85.

It was the highest for the index since at least June 2011, when the level was around 111.

January's loosening reflected a pair of divergent trends, according to Mike Fratantoni, the trade group's chief economist.

"First, the market continues to adapt to the new QM regulation by eliminating products that do not fit inside of the QM box," Fratantoni said. "This tightening is being offset, both in the market for higher balance loans, where lenders continue to loosen terms for jumbo loans, and in the refi market, where more lenders are offering streamline refinance programs."

Fratantoni highlighted how the Federal Reserve's Senior Loan Officer Survey showed that standards tightened for smaller lenders but loosened for their larger counterparts.

MBA's data represents mostly larger, wholesale lenders and investors, according to the MBA economist.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's Survey of Credit Underwriting Practices released in January found that underwriting standards increased the most last year on home-equity products.

However, the OCC noted that a sizable share of commercial real estate lenders have eased requirements, and CRE risk is projected to rise.

But mortgage credit still remains far tighter based on historical levels.

Had MBA's index been in place in 2007, it would have been around 800.

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