By: Nelson Smith - Wednesday, January 04, 2017 U.S. Mortgage Apps Decline to End '16 Advertisment Mortgage interest rates stateside came down slightly to end the year, but not enough to end the bleeding in the U.S. home-loan market. Mortgage application volume plunged 12% for last week, seasonally adjusted, from two weeks earlier. The U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association did not report weekly volume last week but did include an adjustment for the Christmas holiday. Higher rates have hit the mortgage refinance business particularly hard. Applications to refinance a home loan fell 22%, seasonally adjusted, during the two-week period. They dropped by more than half in the last four weeks and ended the year 13% lower compared to a year ago. Mortgage rates rose sharply following the presidential election of Donald Trump and have hovered near two-year highs ever since. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.39% from 4.45%, with points increasing to 0.43 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio loans. Mortgage applications to purchase a home in the states have also taken a hit from higher rates, though less severely. They fell 2% during the two-week period and ended the year 1% lower on the year.