ARM Update

August 10, 2020

A risk-off market tone toward the end of the week drove the 10-year Treasury yield to an all-time low, while gold prices continued to reach new highs.  On the data front, non-farm payrolls rose by 1.76mm in July, slightly above expectations of a 1.48mm increase, but easing from the prior 4.79mm uptick.  On the week, yield spreads on Ginnie and conventional ARMs were stable while fixed-rate products tightened 10 bps in both 15- and 30-years.  On the month, ARMs were stable while MBS spreads experienced relentless tightening between 12 – 19 basis points due largely to the Fed’s sponsorship.

ARM pricing spreads have tightened and remain at levels seen during the latter half of 2019 and early 2020 before the market dislocation in mid-March.  Shorter 5/1 conventional ARMs have a 51 bp spread, almost 21 bps wider than they were in March 2019.  Longer-reset 7/1 and 10/1 conventionals have a 64 and 79 bp spread, respectively, approximately 24 and 32 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.  Spreads are wider by approximately 19 bps on 7/1s versus their 15-year fixed rate counterparts.  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 was light last week, with 66.5mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (44.3mm), Freddie Mac (18.9mm), and Ginnie Mae (3.3mm).  Supply continues to be focused in longer reset 7/1s with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issuing 28.6mm and 16.4mm, respectively.  No 3/1s were issued as this shorter product continues to be largely abandoned by lenders and the GSEs.  ARM gross issuance remains at multi-year lows, but recently broke the 1-year run of monthly issuance under $1 billion, and increased supply to levels not seen in over two and a half years.  Last year, the monthly net supply of ARMs ran at a negative $2-3 billion pace, while fixed rates grew at $20-30 billion each month.  The decline closely tracks 5/1 hybrid ARM rate spread to the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which has dropped to approximately 18 basis points.  As of August, hybrid ARM issuance represented ~ 0.35% of overall MBS issuance.

ARM Prepay Commentary

The overall prepayment of conventional hybrid ARMs was mixed in July.  August-released factors indicated the overall prepayments of FNMA and FHLMC ARMs rose a slight 5.96% and 3.72%, respectively.  The overall prepayments for FNMA 5/1s, 7/1s, and 10/1s increased by 10.03%, 4.06%, and 10%, respectively.  Similarly, prepayments for FHLMC 5/1s and 7/1s rose by 9.19% and 5.46%, respectively, while longer-reset 10/1s declined by 5.99%.  The overall prepayments of GN II hybrid ARMs fell 11.94% in July.  For the Treasury indexed GN II hybrid ARMs, the overall prepayments for GN II 3/1s surged 6.15% while 5/1s and 10/1s dropped 17.25% and 46.89%, respectively.  In aggregate, FNMA and FHLMC ARM speeds increased to 39.1 and 39 CPR and GN II declined to 43.5 CPR.

Shorter-reset LIBOR-based Fannie 3/1s decreased 4.5 CPR to 19.7 and 5/1s increased 3.5 CPR to 38.4.  Longer-reset 7/1s rose 1.7 CPR to 43.6 along with 10/1s, which surged 3.7 CPR to 40.7.  In the Ginnie sector, Treasury-based 3/1s, 5/1s, and 7/1s paid 38 CPR, 47.5 CPR, and 30.7 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 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 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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