Morning Report: Servicing becomes a political target

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3214 19.1
Oil (WTI) 40.74 0.41
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.02%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Housing starts came in at 1.19 million, right about in line with expectations. Building permits came in at 1.24 million. Separately, the NAHB Housing Market Index, a measure of homebuilder sentiment, increased again.

 

The number of mortgages in forbearance plans declined again, according to Black Knight Financial Services. A net 27,000 mortgages exited forbearance last week, bringing the total down to 7.77%.

 

The House is reviewing the forbearance guidelines from servicers during the pandemic. Of course the panel members were mainly fair housing lawyers and Ed DeMarco, not actual lenders or servicers, so it was one-sided. Suffice it to say they aren’t happy. Expect this subject to become a bigger issue for Democrats to pound on since this is an election year, and nobody in DC or the media understands this business in the first place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kvetching about lender FICO overlays on FHA loans as well.

Morning Report: Almost 3 million homeowners request forbearance

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2815 -50.1
Oil (WTI) 11.23 -7.29
10 year government bond yield 0.63%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.38%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as people watch the price of oil collapse. Bonds and MBS are up small.

 

Oil is down huge this morning. Why? Nowhere to put it. We are getting back towards the late 90s, when the Economist put out its famous “drowning in oil” cover, which marked the bottom of the oil market. Note that it is the May contract, which expires this week that is down so much. Since it is no longer front month, it isn’t really actively traded and therefore not representative of the true price of oil in the markets. The June contract is trading around 22 bucks. Ironic that we are headed into the summer driving season with oil at the lowest in a generation, but there is nowhere to go.

 

oil

No major economic data this week, aside from initial jobless claims. We do get some real estate data with existing home sales, new home sales, and the FHFA House Price Index. The NY Fed is decreasing its TBA purchases to $10 billion per day.

 

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index was flashing “recession” in March, falling to -4.17. (Anything under -0.7 is considered recessionary). Mohammed El-Arian says the economy could contract 14% in 2020. Citi also warns that the markets aren’t pricing in a second wave of infections.

 

Almost 3 million people have asked for mortgage forbearance under the CARES Act. This represents 5.5% of all active mortgages. This is 4.9% of all Fannie / Freddie loans and 7.6% of FHA / VA loans. So far servicers are getting crushed by this. “It’s frankly frustrating and ridiculous that we do not have a solution in place,” said Jay Bray, CEO of Mr. Cooper, one of the nation’s larger mortgage servicers, who consulted with the Trump administration to set up the bailout. “When we were working on the Act, we had liquidity in it, and it did not make it into the Act. We were told it would be handled through the administration, and it’s a real problem.”

Last week Senators Sherrod Brown and Maxine Waters sent a letter to the Administration:  “The government must be prepared to respond quickly to prevent a liquidity shortfall in the single-family and multifamily mortgage markets, and to ensure that consumers are equitably served by that response. Any liquidity provided must be used to stabilize the market at a time when many families may fall behind on payments and facilitate relief to individual homeowners and renters throughout the market through forbearance, loss mitigation, and protection from displacement, rather than immediate defaults and evictions.”

Civil Rights and fair housing groups are also requesting a facility for servicers. While it seem unusual for the Professional Left to go to bat for servicers, they sense that if no facility is set up, no one will want to do FHA loans in the future. FHA business is severely restricted at the moment.

 

 

Morning Report: More action out of the Fed.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2799 45.4
Oil (WTI) 26.56 1.49
10 year government bond yield 0.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.47%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on optimism that things are turning the corner with the COVID-19 crisis. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The bond market closes early today, and markets will be closed on Friday.

 

6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That puts the number of COVID-19 job losses at around 16.5 million total.

 

The Fed unveiled a new round of measures to support the economy this morning. They include a program to augment the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program by supplying liquidity to banks that participate, allowing them to pledge the actual loans as collateral. The Fed will also purchase loans under the Main Street Lending Program. The TALF program will be increased and more direct aid will be sent to state and local governments.

The Main Street Program will offer 4 year loans to companies employing up to 10,000 workers with revenues under 2.5 billion. P&I will be deferred for one year. The banks will retain 5% of the loan, and can sell the remaining 95% to the Fed.

Interestingly there is still no facility for mortgage servicers. It looks like the issue is finally getting the attention of lawmakers, however we still don’t have anything. In his comments at the Brookings Institution, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that he is watching the mortgage servicers closely, which means the Fed is probably considering some sort of relief.

 

Looks like Wells is out of the penalty box, at least as far as SBA loans go.

 

Jerome Powell said the Fed will act “forcefully and aggressively” to until the economy fully recovers. “Many of the programs we are undertaking to support the flow of credit rely on emergency lending powers … We will continue to use these powers forcefully, proactively, and aggressively until we are confident that we are solidly on the road to recovery,” Powell said in prepared remarks for an online event hosted by the Brookings Institution.

Morning Report: The Lehman moment?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2669 20.4
Oil (WTI) 23.86 0.49
10 year government bond yield 0.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.47%

 

Stocks are higher this morning the Trump Administration works to get the economy going again. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

With the Fannie 2.5 over 104, the margin calls are back. The NY Fed needs to take a break.

 

The government is starting to work on getting the economy re-opened in the next four to eight weeks. The idea would be to start opening up areas which never really had too many cases to begin with, and slowly work everyone back in. Larry Kudlow said: “It’s the health people that are going to drive the medical-related decisions,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said in an interview with Politico webcast on Tuesday. “But I still believe, hopefully and maybe prayerfully, that in the next four to eight weeks we will be able to reopen the economy, and that the power of the virus will be substantially reduced and we will be able to flatten the curve.”

 

We will get the FOMC minutes out at 2:00 pm today. Usually the FOMC minutes are a non-event but today could be different. Of course MBS are marching to their own (NY Fed) drummer these days and are gently rising regardless of how the bond market is trading. At a minimum, it will make interesting reading.

 

Mortgage applications decreased 18% last week as purchases fell 19% and refis fell 12%. FWIW, pricing in the secondary market has been terrible for the past two weeks and that is flowing through to primary markets. Aggregators are pricing like they don’t want the business.

 

Mark Calabria said that no Fannie / Freddie servicing facility is going to be made available.

“Yes and no is the answer,” Calabria told HousingWire when asked whether FHFA has a plan similar to that of Ginnie Mae, which recently announced a program to aid servicers dealing with forbearance on loans backed by the Federal Housing AdministrationDepartment of Agriculture, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The yes is we continue to monitor Fannie and Freddie servicers,” Calabria said. “We are, at this point, comfortable with our ability to deal with any servicers that may be distressed so that we can either turn them into subservicers or transfer their servicing to other parties. And we believe at this point, given the number on uptake of forbearance, we’ve seen that we can transfer servicing in a way that’s not too disruptive.

“So, the yes is we have contingency plans and procedures put in place were this distress to happen,” Calabria continued. “So that’s the yes part. The no part is, do we have a liquidity facility that we will be providing via Fannie and Freddie? The answer’s no. We don’t have the resources at Fannie and Freddie to do that.”

Calabria is making a bet that forbearance requests will come in around 2% of servicing portfolios, noting the MBA said that 1.7% requested forbearance in a sample. Of course that was the first week, so it probably is premature to say that is the number. But he isn’t buying the 25% estimates some are throwing around, at least for non-Ginnie servicers. For Ginnie servicers, he can buy that number. FWIW, this kind of feels like a Lehman Brothers moment for the servicers.

 

Well, this news isn’t doing anything for servicing in the bulk market.  I heard that Fannie Mae servicing trading at 1x- 2x. Freddie is 1x and GNMA is 1x to negative. In normal markets, Ginnie is a little south of 3x and Fannie is around 4x. I don’t know if theoretical marks are going to take such a dramatic hit, but if they do, bank earnings are going to take a hit next week.

 

The MBA sent out a statement urging FHFA to reconsider.

“The FHFA Director’s recent statements send a troubling message to borrowers, lenders, and the mortgage market. Servicers are required to offer borrowers widespread forbearance under a plan devised and approved first by FHFA and then codified by the CARES Act. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are contractually obligated for the payments to investors. Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will eventually reimburse mortgage servicers for the payments they must advance during forbearance, Director Calabria should advocate for the creation of a liquidity facility at the Fed to ensure the stability of the housing finance market.

Finally, Anthony Hsieh had this to say on Linked In last night:

Loan depot

Morning Report: Advance facility needed

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2567 84.4
Oil (WTI) 27.46 -0.89
10 year government bond yield 0.65%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Stocks are higher as  early signs show a plateauing in the COVID-19 crisis. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Ex-MBA President Dave Stevens penned an editorial in Housing Wire that is worth a read. The CARES act mortgage forbearance policy is wreaking havoc on the mortgage banking system in general. The unintended consequences of this must be dealt with immediately. The servicers are Ground Zero of the crisis, as the CARES act requires them to make advances they don’t have. Ginnie Mae envisions a facility to make advances, but so far the GSEs do not. Also, the government’s estimate that only 750,000 homeowners will take advantage of this program is simply wishful thinking. There are probably 50 million mortgaged properties in the US. 10 million people lost their jobs in the last two weeks.  Dave Stevens argues that the government must establish an advance line facility for Fannie and Freddie loans, and they need to be clear on how advances will be replenished. The cost of not figuring this out is already evident:

Bid-ask spreads have widened, servicing bids have all but dried up or are being severely curtailed, lenders are having to pull back on minimum credit score, maximum DTI, certain loan products, and more. The Jumbo market is all but gone, especially in the third-party channels. In short, any prospective homebuyer right now is more likely to find fewer or no options for mortgage financing. This is greatly the outcome of the massive uncertainty surrounding the rollout of these federal interventions.

We are going to start hearing about some of the more tangible effects when the banks start reporting first quarter earnings in about a week. I can’t imagine what JP Morgan and Wells are going to have to say. Note JP Morgan is already publicly musing about cutting the dividend.

 

Black Knight Financial Services has a white paper discussing how to navigate the COVID-19 environment.

 

Bank of America has seen massive demand for the SBA Payroll Protection loans. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said that the bank would serve its borrowing customers (i.e. existing clients) first. There remain issues regarding reps and warrants relief for fraud and money laundering, which have to get solved before the banks will really start doing these.

 

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said that the COVID-19 stimulus bill was the correct size, and another one is probably not needed. He envisions the US economy having a sharp rebound once this is over.

 

New York is beginning to plan for re-opening business.

Morning Report: Massive mortgage holiday?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2530 -78.4
Oil (WTI) 21.84 -0.69
10 year government bond yield 0.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Sloppy stock tape as we head into the weekend. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The Fed is set to purchase another $50 billion of MBS and TBAs today. Mortgage bankers are getting killed on their hedges and fighting off the margin calls. The Fed and FICC really need to have a conversation about what they are doing.

 

The FHA market is tightening up dramatically. Sub 620 FICO? Forget about it. Seeing some aggregators add 15 point LLPAs to lower FICO FHAs. Right now, the floor is 660, and rising fast. If the government goes through with its mortgage relief plan, DQs are going way up. The government is planning to set up a facility for servicers to make advances, which should keep the biggest non-bank servicers alive during this period. Suffice it to say government servicing is worthless right now, because in all reality it is nothing more than an unbounded liability stream at this point.

 

The stimulus bill is headed to the House today. Unfortunately, the House isn’t in session at the moment, so lawmakers are scrambling to figure out a way to get a vote. In the Senate bill, there is a provision for borrowers who are affected by Coronavirus (directly or indirectly) to petition for relief from mortgage payments for up to 6 months (and extendable for another 6). No proof of hardship is required. The servicer has to report the loan as current to the reporting agencies. This language starts on page 565. Needless to say, this is incredibly generous and nobody has any idea of what the unintended consequences of that will be. I cannot imagine that stands as-is, but you never know.

 

Do renters get a break? The left will scream bloody murder if they don’t. Since relief only extends to primary residences, what does that mean for investment properties? The government really needs to think this through before they completely upend the real estate market.

 

Some good news: A new study from the University of Washington has Coronavirus deaths at about 81,000 and ending in June. In other words, just a bit worse than a typical flu season. Many of those dramatic “millions and millions are gonna die!!!” studies assume no changes in behavior, which isn’t the case.

 

 

Morning Report: TBAs are decoupling from Treasuries

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2919 -96.25
Oil (WTI) 43.46 -2.49
10 year government bond yield 0.73%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.3%

 

Stocks are getting clobbered as the flight-to-safety trade takes hold. Bonds and MBS are up. Note we  will have a lot of Fed-speak today, so be aware.

 

Despite the big move upward in bonds (the 10 – year is up about 2 points), TBAs are barely up. The 2.5 coupon is up about 1/4, and the 3s and up are flat. There is a huge push-pull event happening in the TBA market right now.  First, originators who hedge their pipelines with TBAs are getting hit with margin calls, which is causing a bit of a short squeeze in the market. Basically, if an originator can’t make the margin call, the broker will close out their position, and that means buying TBAs to close out the short position. Most lenders have had a call from their friendly TBA broker-dealer already, and you will probably be able to hear the champagne corks popping after we get past Class A settlement next week. People have been white-knuckling it all week.

 

On the other hand, increasing prepay speeds are making the higher note rates less and less attractive. If you buy a 3.5% Fannie TBA, you’ll pay 104. You will get back 100. You are hoping that you get enough coupon payments to cover that premium you paid. As rates fall, that chance of making back that 4% premium you paid becomes less and less. So, even though the 10 year keeps falling, eventually mortgage backed securities will participate less and less in the rally (or at least the higher note rates will). And it looks like we are about there. This is a big relief for mortgage bankers who have full pipelines and want to ring the register. Now, about that servicing portfolio….

 

Margin calls harken back to the bad old days of 2008. Are we experiencing something similar? Emphatically, no. In 2008, we had a collapsing residential real estate bubble, and these are the Hurricane Katrinas of banking. Despite all the fears of a recession, delinquencies are at 40 year lows, and the labor economy remains strong.

 

Speaking of the labor economy, it is jobs day. Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls up 273,000 (expectation was 177)
  • Unemployment rate 3.5% (expectation 3.6%)
  • Average hourly earnings up 0.3% MOM / 3% YOY
  • Labor force participation rate 63.4%

Overall, a strong report that should take some wind out of the sails of the bond market. Note that this is February’s report, so much of it will be pre-Coronavirus. US corporations are preparing for a mass experiment in remote working, so some of the effects of virus could be relatively well mitigated.

 

Remember yesterday, when I showed the Fed Funds futures prediction and said it was a toss-up between how big of a cut it will be? Well, it still is. Except now it is a toss-up between a 50 basis point cut and a 75 basis point cut. ZIRP by June?

 

fed funds futures

 

Who else is driving the rally in the 10 year? Banks. Banks who hedge their interest rate risk with Treasuries are facing similar issues that mortgage bankers are in the Treasury market. Banks with huge portfolios of mortgage loans will sell the 10 year against it in order to hedge interest rate risk. As rates fall, they will need to buy back some of that hedge. According to JP Morgan, banks need to buy about $1.2 trillion in 10 year bonds to adjust their hedges.