ARM Update

March 16, 2020



The rapid spread of the coronavirus combined with the reactions by governments, central banks, and corporations, along with the collapse in crude oil prices continued to overwhelm the financial markets last week.  Hybrid ARM spreads continued to widen as the broader fixed income market remained volatile.  5/1 and 7/1 cohorts widened 10 basis points while longer-reset 10/1s widened 20 bps.  In the last month, Ginnie 3/1 and 5/1 spreads have widened approximately 30 basis points while conventional ARMs have widened 40 to 55 basis points.  At these attractive wides, ARMs outperformed mortgage-related sectors with 15- and 30-year fixed-rate mortgages widening 42 and 43 basis points, respectively, on the week.

Since the rally at the end of 2018, ARM pricing spreads have widened significantly, reacting strongly to each move lower in rates.  For example, 5/1 ARMs have a 95 bp spread, almost 67 bps wider than they were in mid-February 2019.  Longer-reset 7/1s and 10/1s have a 100 and 120 bp spread, respectively, approximately 62 and 70 bps wider than levels in mid-February 2019.  Certainly, the environment for ARMs has changed dramatically over the years with the flattening yield curve, but today’s spreads are well wider than those seen during 2017 at lower dollar prices.



Factors such as diminished liquidity, lack of index sponsorship, and the small market size have increased their spread concessions to fixed rates.  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 142.3mm in new issue ARM selling split amongst Fannie Mae (112.7mm), Freddie Mac (23.9mm), and Ginnie Mae (5.7mm).  Supply was focused in longer-reset 7/1s and 10/1s with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac combined issuing 57.1mm and 61.1mm, 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 as it came under 1 billion for the tenth consecutive month in February.  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.  As of March, hybrid ARM issuance represents ~ 0.65% of overall MBS issuance.



Last week, ARM activity was primarily focused on the following:


On November 15, 2019, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released recommendations on contract fallback language to be used for new closed-end residential adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs).  The recommended fallback language for each of these products is based on the following framework:


A recent Vining Sparks’s publication provides the latest developments and planning steps for the transition from LIBOR.


On July 11, 2019, 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:



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

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