ARM Update

January 11, 2021

The first week of 2021 was very eventful for both U.S. politics and markets.  Resolution of a prolonged U.S. election season coupled with the potential for greater fiscal stimulus resulted in significantly higher U.S. Treasury yields.  The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield exceeded 1% for the first time in almost a year and the 2s10s curve reached its steepest level in three years.  On the week, yield spreads on conventional ARMs tightened 2 to 4 bps.  On the contrary, mortgage-backed securities widened 6 bps in 15-year product and 13 bps in 30-year product.  Over the last four weeks, both Ginnie and conventional ARMs have tightened 5 to 15 bps while fixed-rate products have widened 2 to 4 bps.

ARM pricing spreads have tightened and remain at levels seen during the first half of 2019.  Shorter 5/1 conventional ARMs have a 40 bp spread, almost 10 bps wider than they were in March 2019.  Longer-reset 7/1 and 10/1 conventionals have a 48 and 50 bp spread, respectively, approximately 3 – 8 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 12 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 continued last week with 101.4mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (100.3mm) and Ginnie Mae (1.1mm).  Supply continues to be concentrated in longer-reset 7/1s and 10/1s with Fannie Mae issuing 45.5mm and 33.4mm, 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.  The decline closely tracks 5/1 hybrid ARM rate spread to the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which has dropped to approximately 1 basis point.  As of January, hybrid ARM issuance represented ~ 0.23% of overall MBS issuance.

ARM Prepay Commentary

The overall prepayment of conventional hybrid ARMs reversed course and increased in December.  January-released factors indicated the prepayments of FNMA and FHLMC ARMs rose by 5.56% and 6.42%, respectively.  The prepayment speeds of FNMA 3/1s, 5/1s, 7/1s, and 10/1s sped up by 9.63%, 3.94%, 4.68%, and 9.05%, respectively.  Similarly, prepayment speeds for FHLMC 5/1s, 7/1s, and 10/1s sped up by 12.23%, 5.67%, and 2.34%, respectively.  The overall prepayments of GN II hybrid ARMs also experienced an increase of 5.18% in December.  For the Treasury indexed GN II hybrid ARMs, the prepayments for GN II 5/1 and 7/1 cohorts rose by 10.26% and 30.83%, respectively.  In aggregate, FNMA and FHLMC ARM speeds rose to 38 and 39.8 CPR while GN II increased to 38.6CPR.

Shorter-reset LIBOR-based Fannie 3/1s increased 1.8 CPR to 20.5 and 5/1s rose 1.3 CPR to 34.3.  Longer-reset 7/1s sped up 1.9 CPR to 42.5 along with 10/1s, which increased 3.6 CPR to 43.4.  In the Ginnie sector, Treasury-based 3/1s, 5/1s, and 7/1s paid 34 CPR, 41.9 CPR, and 52.2 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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