New applications for U.S. mortgages eased last week with a dip in refinancing despite steady 30-year mortgage rates, an industry group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (search) said its seasonally adjusted market index, a measure of mortgage activity, eased for the week ending July 30 by 0.2 percent to 620.4 from the previous week's 621.4.

The Washington trade group's seasonally adjusted refinancing index dipped by 2.9 percent to 1,600.3 from the previous week's 1,648.8.

Last week marked the fourth week in a row the refinancing index has fallen. Refinancing has generally been slowing since March after a period of strength driven by extremely low interest rates.

However, the Washington trade group's purchase index, a gauge of new loan requests for home purchases, rose last week by 1.6 percent to 452.0 from 444.8 in the prior week. It was the second week in a row that the purchase index has climbed.

Thirty-year mortgage rates, excluding fees, averaged 5.97 percent, unchanged from the previous week. Last week's average 30-year rates were down 0.4 percentage points from the comparable week a year ago.

U.S. housing data over the last few weeks has pointed to a softer housing market as rates have increased from their low level early this year.

The National Association of Realtors (search) on Monday said increasing home prices and interest rates had made U.S. houses less affordable in the second quarter. The association's affordability index fell to 133.6 from 144.1 in the first quarter and 143.8 a year ago.

Earlier this week the Commerce Department (search) said outlays for U.S. construction fell in June by 0.3 percent, with outlays on private housing falling for the first time in 16 months.