The much-ailed U.S. housing sector continues to display fluctuating conditions, even as lenders and mortgage-backers adopt tight consumer credit risk management practices. Last month, the Commerce Department reported that new home sales climbed 1.6 percent in November to reach a seasonally adjusted rate of 315,000. That figure is less than half of what's needed to sustain a healthy housing market. This week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that applications for home mortgages fell 4.1 percent last week. The decrease was primarily weighed down by a 9.6 percent dip in purchase loan requests and a 2.5 percent drop in refinancing requests, Reuters reports. Consumers continued to struggle raising funds to apply for a housing loan throughout most of 2011, further weakening demand and new home construction. "As part of legislation to extend the payroll tax holiday, guarantee fees for loans purchased by the GSEs and mortgage insurance premiums for FHA loans will eventually increase," said Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research at the MBA. "Given the announced implementation of this change, we do not expect to see an impact on mortgage rates and application activity until at least February."