Posts Tagged ‘Calculated Risk’

Where Do Mortgage Interest Rates Go Absent The Fed Training Wheels

Where Do Mortgage Interest Rates Go Absent The Fed Training Wheels?

Courtesy of Tom Lindmark of But Then What

foreclosure

No one covers the residential housing market like Calculated Risk and he has been doing a great job of following what appears to be mounting concern about the Fed withdrawing from the MBS market. Tonight he has a compendium of thoughts on the subject, all verging more or less on terror at the prospect.

I’ll let you click over there to take a quick glance at the various concerns. For his part, the blog’s author has been pretty steadfast in his belief that when the Fed does withdraw the impact on interest rates is going to be in the neighborhood of 35 basis points. Disagreeing with him is perilous business but in this case, I think he might be too optimistic.

Obviously, the impact is not one that will occur in isolation but will be influenced by the general state of the bond market, inflation expectations and the general state of the housing market, particularly the outlook for further foreclosures. Having said that, I think that it could easily push rates up by 50 to 100 bps.

There hasn’t been an established market for residential MBS since the bottom fell out of everything and there seems little reason to suppose that investors, especially overseas investors, are going to rush back into the market absent some fairly generous risk premium. It’s not like there is a dearth now or for the foreseeable future of US government securities which carry less baggage than MBS.

Specifically, the value of the implicit guarantee could be substantially diminished were the economy to start heading in the wrong way thus necessitating further deficit accumulation. It’s an Armageddon scenario that the US would find itself so strapped for financing that it stopped honoring anything other than direct obligations of the government but, if we’ve learned anything the past couple of years it is that what once seemed beyond possible isn’t necessarily so.

I do agree with Calculated Risk’s assessment that the Fed will at least try exiting the program and will bounce right back in if things go awry. At the very least, it’s going to be a great test of the degree to which the markets have returned to normal and give us


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Mortgage Backed Securities – What Happens When The Training Wheels Come Off?

Mortgage Backed Securities – What Happens When The Training Wheels Come Off?

Courtesy of Tom Lindmark at But Then What

training wheels

Calculated Risk points to an interesting but short article at Bloomberg by Meredith Whitney in which she postulates that once the Fed withdraws its support for the mortgage backed securities market, mortgage rates will move up and the banks will be faced with more writedowns.

CR plots the historical spread of of the 30 year mortgage versus the ten year Treasury and comes to the conclusion that the Fed’s intervention has amounted to somewhere around a 50 BP subsidy so far. He then postulates that we could expect to see rates increase by this amount once the Fed exits the market.

Now let me say that I bow to no one in my admiration for CR. When stretched for time, it’s the only blog I read and it’s always the first blog I turn to. The author gets the data and then reaches well thought out conclusions and doesn’t seem to let personal bias intrude on his analysis. Having said that, I think he may be underestimating the potential effect on rates that may occur when there is no more Fed support.

If you read me often you will have seen this quote before. From George Will, “History tends to repeat itself until it doesn’t.” That is the problem that I have with CRs chart on this one. It presupposes that the world hasn’t changed and that the historical relationship between Treasuries and mortgage rates will persist.

Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. It might not because the world has changed. We’ve not seen before the unprecedented political interference in the market for mortgage securities that we have witnessed over the past 18 months. Contract law has been stretched to the point of breaking and what was normally considered standard procedure for resolving mortgage defaults has been turned on its head.

I have no idea as to whether or how much investors have been harmed by government actions and I suppose that no one at this point in time can generate any verifiable numbers. I’m not sure that, in fact, that makes much difference.

When the Fed does withdraw, the risk premium that investors demand is once again going to be subject to market discipline. Now it might not


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