August 26, 2019
Demand for new-issue hybrid ARMs slowed, which resulted in yield spreads to Treasurys widening 1 to 2 basis points last week. In a speech at the annual Jackson Hole symposium sponsored by the Kansas Fed, Chairman Jerome Powell described a “new normal” characterized by low inflation, a low neutral policy rate and trade policy uncertainty, with the latter representing a new challenge with no recent precedent to guide any policy response. ARMs outperformed their fixed-rate MBS counterparts, with yield spreads widening 5 bps on the 15-year fixed and 4 bps on the 30-year fixed. As mentioned in last week’s update, we continue to see relative value in longer-reset 10/1s as they remain approximately 40 bps wider compared to levels in early March.
The following chart reflects the week over week change in Z-spreads for ARMs. Z-spreads widened for GNMA, FNMA and FHLMC products.
The ARM origination cycle was light last week, with 29.2mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (0.7mm), Freddie Mac (13.2mm), and Ginnie Mae (15.3mm). Supply was focused in 5/1s with Fannie Mae issuing 0.7mm, Freddie Mac issuing 5.2mm, and Ginnie Mae issuing 15.3mm. Freddie Mac also contributed to 7/1 and 10/1 issuance with 6.7mm and 1.3mm, respectively. ARM gross issuance remains at multi-year lows as it came under 1 billion for the third consecutive month in July.
Hybrid ARM issuance remains quite low. As of August, hybrid ARM issuance represents ~ 0.56% of overall MBS issuance. Nevertheless, issuance volumes have been at their highest levels in Ginnie Maes and despite the meager volumes, hybrid ARM issuance as a percentage of overall MBS issuance trended higher last month versus May and June.
Last week, ARM activity was spread across a variety of lists and primarily focused on the following:
- Moderately seasoned Fannie Mega 10/1s with higher coupons (2.9%+) and ~ 7-year resets traded at a moderate premium ($102+).
- Seasoned Freddie Giant 10/1s with coupons exceeding 2.7% traded at a moderate premium ($102+).
On July 11th, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released a white paper detailing how an average of the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) can be used in newly-issued ARMs in a structure that is comparable to today’s existing ARM loans. The white paper shows how SOFR can be used to develop products that are built on a robust reference rate that is grounded in market transaction. Here’s an overview of the ARRC’s proposed models of SOFR ARMs:
- Most aspects of a SOFR-based ARM would use the same conventions that currently exist in US Dollar LIBOR-based ARMs, including the range of fixed-rate periods available, the timing of payment determinations, and the structure of caps on the amount that mortgage payments can rise at the end of the fixed-rate period and over the life of the mortgage.
- However, a few key components would differ:
- These ARMs would be based on a 30- or 90-day average of SOFR, rather than 1-year LIBOR. Because SOFR tends to be lower than 1-year LIBOR, the margin for newly originated SOFR-indexed ARMs would likely be adjusted upward so borrowers’ overall floating-rate payments are comparable to existing LIBOR-based ARMs.
- In order to ensure that these SOFR-indexed ARMs can be offered at rates consistent with other competitive rates in the market, under the proposed models SOFR-indexed ARM, the borrower’s monthly floating-rate payment would adjust following the fixed-rate period once every six months rather than once every year, as is currently the market standard for LIBOR-based ARMs in the United States.
- To safeguard against unexpected payment increases to the borrower, the proposed models would cut the periodic adjustment cap to 1%. As a result, the borrower’s payment, even in a period of rapidly rising interest rates, would not change by more than 2% over a 12-month period, in accord with the current market convention for LIBOR-based ARMs.
The desk continues to look to bid odd-lot positions for both conventionals and Ginnies for clean-up. The disposition of odd-lot positions can result in enhanced transactional liquidity and higher earnings. Also, this is an opportunistic time to consider eliminating smaller line items that are subject to standard safekeeping and accounting fees that are more palatable for larger block sizes.
Ricky Brillard, CPA
Senior Vice President, Investment Strategies
Vining Sparks IBG, LP