According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the number of Americans requesting applications for loans to buy homes rose 1 percent from a week earlier and is now at its highest level in nearly two years. The news was a bright spot in a report that also included data showing an increase in average mortgage rates and a sharp drop in refinance demand. In fact, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances was up from a week earlier, joining FHA loans and 15-year fixed-rate loans in a week when rates were up across all loan categories. Likely because of rising rates, the Refinance Index fell 8 percent from the previous week. Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, said interest rates were up across the globe due to signs of recovery in Europe. Fratantoni also noted that the average loan amount reached a record high last week, indicating that “the mix of purchase activity is still skewed toward higher priced homes.” Still, because purchase application demand is a good indicator of future home sales, the increase shows the spring buying season is off to a good start. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.