ARM Update

March 14, 2022



Last week, the Treasury curve flattened ahead of the Fed’s policy meeting.  The yield on the 10-year note rose to 2% capping a 27-basis point weekly increase.  The jump erased the prior week’s perceived flight-to-quality bid that inspired the benchmark yield’s biggest weekly decline since March 2020.  On the week, yield spreads on Ginnie and conventional ARMs were unchanged while fixed-rate mortgage backs were mixed.  Shorter 15-year product tightened 6 basis points while longer 30-year MBS were unchanged at 101 basis points.

ARM pricing spreads have tightened and are at levels seen during the first half of 2018.  Shorter 5yr/6m conventional ARMs have a 19 bp spread, almost 12 bps wider than median levels from the first half of 2018.  Longer-reset 7yr/6m and 10yr/6m conventionals have a 23 and 26 bp spread, respectively, approximately 9 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.  7yr/6m may offer better value than 15-years, but they are less liquid.  Overall, we continue to see relative value in 7yr/6m 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 215.7mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (90.5mm) and Freddie Mac (125.2mm).  Supply was concentrated in longer-reset 7yr/6m and 10yr/6m products indexed to the 30-day SOFR average.  Fannie Mae issued 58.9mm and 17mm while Freddie Mac issued 24.7mm and 83.5mm, respectively, in those products.  No GNMA 3/1s and 5/1s were issued as these shorter products continue to be largely abandoned by lenders and the GSEs.  This comes after ARM issuance skyrocketed in June, July, and August to the highest levels of issuance since the Fall of 2017.  The surge in issuance was due to two primary factors – the completion of the SOFR transition for new production ARMs and the rise of mortgage origination rates.  Pickup in issuance comes at the perfect time for investors to diversify away from other products while adding floating exposure to the portfolio.  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 March, hybrid ARM issuance represented ~ 0.96% of overall MBS issuance.



ARM Prepay Commentary

Prepayment speeds of conventional hybrid ARMs reversed course from peak levels experienced in early 2021 and increased in February.  March-released factors indicated the prepayments of FNMA and FHLMC ARMs rose by 1% and 1.4%, respectively.  The prepayment speeds of FNMA 3/1s, 5/1s, and 7/1s increased by 1.6%, 1.4%, and 8.7%.  Similarly, prepayment speeds for FHLMC 5/1s and 7/1s rose by 13.1% and 3.3%.  Like conventionals, prepayments in the Ginnie space sped up with GN II hybrid ARMs rising 6.7%.  For the Treasury indexed GN II hybrid ARMs, the prepayment speeds for GN II 3/1 and 7/1 cohorts increased 20.3% and 34%, respectively.  In aggregate, FNMA and FHLMC speeds sped up to 21 and 21.7 CPR while GN II rose to 28.6.  The Ginnie 36-month average CPR is slightly higher at 33.6 compared to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at 30.9 and 31.5, respectively.



LIBOR-based Fannie 3/1s, 5/1s, and 7/1s paid 19.6, 22.1, and 27.6 CPR while Treasury-based 3/1s and 7/1s paid 27.8 and 32.3 CPR.  Longer-reset SOFR-based Fannie and Freddie 7yr/6m products rose to 10.3 and 11.9 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

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