ARM Update

March 15, 2021

Last week, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law and announced he would direct states to make all adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.  The overall cost of this Phase 5 fiscal stimulus package amounts to nearly $1.9tn, slightly over 8% of GDP.  The 10-year Treasury yield rose above 1.60% to its highest level in over a year following the news.  On the week, conventional ARM spreads tightened 3 to 5 basis points.  Fixed rate product outperformed their adjustable rate counterpart by tightening 8 and 6 basis points in 15- and 30-year product, respectively.  On the month, conventional hybrid ARMs have tightened 10 – 11 basis points.

ARM pricing spreads have tightened and are at levels seen during the fourth quarter of 2018.  Shorter 5/1 conventional ARMs have a 25 bp spread, almost 16 bps wider than the fourth quarter of 2018 lows.  Longer-reset 7/1 and 10/1 conventionals have a 30 and 34 bp spread, respectively, approximately 7 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 17.9mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (1.6mm) and Freddie Mac (16mm).  Supply was concentrated in 10yr/6m indexed to the 30-day SOFR Average with Freddie Mac issuing 14.9mm.  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 March, hybrid ARM issuance represented ~ 0.23% of overall MBS issuance.

ARM Prepay Commentary

The overall prepayment of conventional hybrid ARMs was mixed in February.  March-released factors indicated the overall prepayments of FNMA and FHLMC ARMs rose 2.37% and 2.82%, respectively.  The overall prepayments for FNMA 3/1s, 7/1s and 10/1s increased by 19.33%, 4.72%, and 2.74%, respectively, while 5/1s declined by 2.65%.  Prepayments for FHLMC 5/1s, 7/1s, and 10/1s rose by 5.15%, 1.47%, and 5.3%, respectively.  The overall prepayments of GN II hybrid ARMs fell 3.19% in February.  For the Treasury indexed GN II hybrid ARMs, the overall prepayments for GN II 3/1s increased a slight 1.7% while 5/1s fell 5.97%.  In aggregate, FNMA and FHLMC ARM speeds increased to 34.6 and 36.4 CPR and GN II declined to 33.4 CPR.

Shorter-reset LIBOR-based Fannie 3/1s increased 2.9 CPR to 17.9 and 5/1s decreased .8 CPR to 29.4.  Longer-reset 7/1s increased 1.8 CPR to 39.9 while 10/1s increased 1.1 CPR to 41.3.  In the Ginnie sector, Treasury-based 3/1s, 5/1s, and 7/1s paid 29.9 CPR, 36.2 CPR, and 27.4 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

The information included herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable, but it is not in any way guaranteed, and it, together with any opinions expressed, is subject to change at any time. Any and all details offered in this publication are preliminary and are therefore subject to change at any time. This has been prepared for general information purposes only and does not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any individual or institution. This information is, by its very nature, incomplete and specifically lacks information critical to making final investment decisions. Investors should seek financial advice as to the appropriateness of investing in any securities or investment strategies mentioned or recommended. The accuracy of the financial projections is dependent on the occurrence of future events which cannot be assured; therefore, the actual results achieved during the projection period may vary from the projections. The firm may have positions, long or short, in any or all securities mentioned. Member FINRA/SIPC.
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