According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were down last week for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed rate loans. But despite falling rates, demand for mortgage applications remained flat, with refinance activity dropping 2 percent and purchase activity up just 1 percent from the week before. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC that, though a lower-than-normal number of homes for sale may be holding demand back, first-time buyers are still active. “A shortage of inventory remains a significant constraint, but it is interesting to note that applications for government purchase loans fared better on the week, indicating that first-time buyers remain in the market.” Government-insured FHA loans offer lower down payment requirements and are, therefore, more popular with younger buyers who may not have saved enough for a 20 percent down payment. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.