ARM Update

April 12, 2021



During a spring IMF meeting, Fed Chair Powell reassured market participants that policymakers would be keeping a close eye on inflation expectations, and that officials have the tools to react to disorderly price pressures, if necessary.  His remarks helped assuage worries that the central bank would begin tapering its asset purchases in the wake of recently robust economic data.  Last week, US. Treasurys strengthened further, sending longer-dated yields lower. The yield on the 10-year note fell six basis points to 1.66%, while the yield on the 30-year bond declined by 3 basis points to 2.33%.  On the week, yield spreads on conventional and Ginnie ARMs were unchanged.  ARMs underperformed their fixed-rate counterparts as 15- and 30-year fixed-rate mortgages tightened 5 and 4 basis points, respectively.

ARM pricing spreads have tightened and are at levels seen during the fourth quarter of 2018.  Shorter 5/1 conventional ARMs have a 22 bp spread, almost 13 bps wider than the fourth quarter of 2018 lows.  Longer-reset 7/1 and 10/1 conventionals have a 28 and 31 bp spread, respectively, approximately 5 bps wider.  Adjustable-rate mortgage products remain an attractive place to put excess cash and liquidity without extending duration, regardless of portfolio strategy.

Factors such as diminished liquidity, lack of index sponsorship, and the small market size have slightly increased ARM spread concessions to fixed rates.  7/1s may offer better value than 15-years, but they are less liquid.  Overall, we continue to see relative value in 7/1s due to appealing yields, shorter durations, and less negative convexity than comparable coupon 15-year fixed rate MBS.  Investors concerned about potentially faster prepayments could focus on lower-WAC new-issue pools or moderately-seasoned paper.



The ARM origination cycle continued last week with 196mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (102.3mm), Freddie Mac (90.3mm), and Ginnie Mae (3.4mm).  Supply was concentrated in 10yr/6m indexed to the 30-day SOFR average with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issuing 50.4mm and 80.3mm, respectively.  No 3/1s were issued as this shorter product continues to be largely abandoned by lenders and the GSEs.  In recent years, the monthly net supply of ARMs has run at a negative pace, while fixed rate products have grown at a much faster pace.  As of April, hybrid ARM issuance represented ~ 0.28% of overall MBS issuance.



ARM Prepay Commentary

The overall prepayment of conventional hybrid ARMs increased in March.  April-released factors indicated the prepayments of FNMA and FHLMC ARMs rose 17.92% and 16.76%, respectively.  The prepayments for FNMA 3/1s, 5/1s, 7/1s, and 10/1s increased by 32.4%, 19.39%, 16.04%, and 15.25%, respectively.  Similarly, prepayments for FHLMC 5/1s, 7/1s, and 10/1s rose by 14.38%, 19.37%, and 11.90%, respectively.  The overall prepayments of GN II hybrid ARMs increased 17.37% in March.  For the Treasury indexed GN II hybrid ARMs, the prepayments for GN II 3/1s and 5/1s surged 13.04% and 18.78%, respectively.  In aggregate, FNMA and FHLMC ARM speeds increased to 40.8 and 42.5 CPR and GN II rose to 39.2 CPR.



Shorter-reset LIBOR-based Fannie 3/1s increased 5.8 CPR to 23.7 and 5/1s rose 5.7 CPR to 35.1.  Longer-reset 7/1s increased 6.4 CPR to 46.3 while while 10/1s sped up 6.3 CPR to 47.6.  In the Ginnie sector, Treasury-based 3/1s, 5/1s, and 7/1s paid 33.8 CPR, 43 CPR, and 59.3 CPR, respectively.



ARM LIBOR Transition Update

The LIBOR to SOFR transition has come to the agency ARM market with more specificity.  Directed by FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that they will start to wrap SOFR based ARMs later this year although no specific date has been set.  The following table from a Vining Sparks’s publication describes the key features of the new SOFR ARM product:



For SOFR ARMs, both agencies introduced a batch of four basic types with standard 3-year to 10-year fixed-rate terms.  Each will float off of 1-month SOFR averages with a 6-month reset frequency instead of the 1-year reset that most LIBOR hybrids currently have.  Moreover, 1-month SOFR is a backward-looking index rate versus the forward-looking 1-year LIBOR.

A typical 1-year LIBOR loan margin in 225bps.  The margin on these SOFR ARMs needs to be higher to compensate for the shorter tenure of the 1-month index.  However, a higher reset frequency should also help to offset the term difference.  ARRC published a white paper in July 2019 on this topic and recommended that SOFR ARM loan margins be between 2.75% and 3% so that their fully indexed rate may be comparable to the annual reset 1-year LIBOR ARM consumer rate.  The agencies did not dictate a margin in the announcement, but it did impose a maximum margin of 300 bps.

The GSEs have recently stated that LIBOR loan applications would not be accepted past September 30, 2020, and they won’t be securitized after December 1, 2020.  Fannie Mae will start accepting SOFR ARMs on August 3, 2020, while Freddie Mac will permit them from November 16, 2020 and onward.  In their LIBOR Transition Playbook, the GSE’s provided the following timeline, which identifies key transition milestones for SOFR-indexed ARMs:



The administrator of LIBOR has announced it will cease the publication of one week and two-month LIBOR after December 31, 2021, and the remaining tenors after June 30, 2023.  Extending the publication of certain LIBOR tenors until mid-2023 would allow most legacy LIBOR contracts to mature before LIBOR experiences disruptions.

The vast majority of ARM loans are retained by banks.  The issuance of agency ARMs has been falling since the 2008.  Thus, the impact of this transition timeline may be relatively minor.  Should the current timeline for agency ARM transition stand, investors might expect lower ARM issuance as we move closer to year-end.


Recent SOFR ARM Announcements



Ricky Brillard, CPA

Senior Vice President, Investment Strategies

Vining Sparks IBG, LP

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