Mortgage rates eased off last week's eight-month high with 30-year fixed mortgage rates falling 14 basis points to 5.07% with an average 0.6 point. 

Also significantly lower were 15-year fixed rates which dropped 12 basis points to 4.40%, while 5/1 hybrid ARM rates plunged 17 basis points to 4.08%. Meanwhile, one-year ARMs averaged 4.13% compared to 4.14% last week.

Despite the improvement in mortgage rates, not to mention ongoing historically attractive levels, application activity is not expected to respond significantly. 

Refinancing activity has been stymied by the declines in home valuations, weak jobs market, and ongoing tight underwriting standards at banks — which were reported unchanged in yesterday's Beige Book.

At similar mortgage levels two weeks ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Refinance Index stood at 2251 and subsequently dropped 9% in the week ending April 9 to 2048 as mortgage rates popped up to 5.21%.

Somewhat surprising, however, was purchase activity, which declined 10.5% in the week ending April 9 - even as the homebuyers tax credit is set to expire on April 30. Plenty of bargains would seem to be available with foreclosure activity hitting a record in March, according to RealtyTrac's report which was released earlier today.

Foreclosure filings since RealtyTrac began issuing its report in January 2005 hit a record high in March of 367,056 properties, up nearly 19% from February and nearly 8% higher from a year ago. This equates to 1 in every 352 households receiving a filing.

For the first quarter, a total of 932,234 properties received a filing, an increase of 7% from 4Q09 and by 16% from the same quarter a year ago. 

RealtyTrac said one in every 138 housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. CEO, James Saccacio noted activity in first quarter was tilted more towards the final stage of foreclosure.

"This subtle shift in the numbers pushed REOs to the highest quarterly total we've ever seen in our report and may be further evidence that lenders are starting to make a dent in the backlog of distressed inventory that has built up over the last year as foreclosure prevention programs and processing delays slowed down the normal foreclosure timeline," he said. 

Nevada remained the top state in terms of foreclosure rate in the first quarter with one in every 33 housing units receiving a filing.  This is an increase of 15% from the last quarter, but down 16% from a year ago. Arizona recorded the second highest rate at 1 in every 49 units, while Florida rounded out the top three at 1 in every 57 households. 

In terms of number of properties receiving a foreclosure filing, California continued to account for the highest number at 216,263 properties, 23% of the nation's total foreclosure activity for the first quarter. Florida was next at 153,540, followed by Arizona at 55,686 properties. These three states along with Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Texas, Nevada, Ohio and Colorado account for over 70% of the nation's first quarter totals said RealtyTrac. 

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