MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 3/25/22

This week was all about a sell-off in the bond market. Let’s look at why that is occurring, how the Fed can take action from here, and ways for those in the mortgage space to mitigate risk.

 

Last week closed with a global bond sell-off that continued to open this week as Fed chair Jerome Powell’s remarks have become increasingly hawkish, along with other Federal Open Market Committee members. The last three weeks have delivered an increase in the 10-year Treasury yield of almost 70-basis points, the largest such move since the end of the initial pandemic-induced volatility of Spring 2020. 

 

Many people believe that the Fed has waited too long to tighten monetary policy and as a result has been unable to prudently manage the U.S. macroeconomic situation in the face of unexpectedly high inflation and strong real economic performance. Short-term real interest rates have been pushed unwittingly lower due to the fed funds rate remaining low while inflation has risen sharply. The fed funds rate is a nominal interest rate that does not account for inflation. Real interest rates, or inflation adjusted rates, are said by economists to be what really drive behavior. 

 

If the fed funds rate is stuck at zero, but inflation increases, real interest rates are falling, and that is stimulating the economy more. The opposite can be true, where low rates in a deflationary environment have the effect of tightening an already stagnant economy. That means even if the Fed doesn’t do anything with interest rates, changes in inflationary expectations are moving real interest rates.

 

The Committee now seems to recognize the need to move quickly to address this situation or risk losing credibility on its inflation target. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, a noted hawk, said he would like to see the fed funds rate raised to 3% this year. He says inflation is “way over” where it ought to be and policy makers need to think bigger and act faster. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, a prominent dove on the Fed, said that he sees seven quarter point hikes this year. That would put the ending fed funds rate at 1.75%, though his forecast is below other committee members.

 

The fed funds futures continue to move into a more hawkish direction. Just one week ago, the central tendency was for the December fed funds rate to be something like 1.75% to 2.25%. Today, it is looking more like 2.25% to 2.5% (more or less where rates were in 2019 before the pandemic), a massive change in sentiment. Goldman is out with a call saying that the Fed will raise the fed funds rate by 50-basis points at both the May and June meetings. Given that the markets are predicting such a huge increase in the fed funds rate, investors have to be concerned that the Fed might tip the economy into a recession, potentially next year. 

 

A recession is a valid fear and sometimes a necessary evil to beat inflation. While the economy grew at a healthy clip last year, much of that was the rebound from COVID and also stimulus money. Inflation is currently much higher and rates much lower than when the Fed managed to raise rates without triggering recessions in 1994 and 1984. While stock bull markets generally last a few years, and bear markets last under a year, bond market cycles are much longer. Fortunately, the biggest driver of recessions is inventory build, and today’s inflation is being driven by a lack of inventory. If we are headed into a recession, we should see both an inversion of the yield curve (when long-term rates are lower than short-term rates) and rising credit spreads, the incremental return investors demand for taking credit risk. 

 

With mortgage rates now at 4.5%, compared to at or below 3% not that long ago, and expected to continue to trend higher through the course of 2022 as a much faster pace of rate hikes and fewer MBS purchases from the Federal Reserve are priced in, increased uncertainty has been introduced into the market. The market has transitioned to the 4 coupon, making the need to stay on top of production and roll out of non-production traded coupons in order to reduce basis risk exposure paramount. Be careful of abnormally wide bid-offer spreads in these newly traded coupons, especially for GNMA securities.

 

Some other ways MCT recommends mitigating risk include discontinuing and avoiding free extensions, limiting or discontinuing locks outside of market hours, including overnight and weekends, considering adding temporary margin to offset the risk of market volatility, and keeping communication with your trading team a top priority prior to the close of market and close of business to ensure you are appropriately covered to minimize interest rate exposure.

 

Even though strong liquidity in low coupons (priced at a discount) and strong execution by aggregators means there is stability in the market, sell-offs without new significant news may signify more persistent market uncertainty. We are monitoring the market situation closely and will keep you informed of potential impacts to your business and pipeline.

10-Year Treasury Yield Curve

Compare this chart with the mortgage rates chart to see how the 10-year treasury and mortgage rates are correlated. Read more below to learn how mortgage rates are tied to the 10 year treasury yield. View raw data on U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

 

Mortgage Rates Today

The current MBS daily rates are shown below in this chart for 5/1 Yr ARM, Jumbo 30 Yr, FHA 30 Yr, 15 Yr Fixed, 30 Yr Fixed. Sign up for our MBS Market Commentary to receive daily mortgage news in your inbox.

About the Author

Robbie Chrisman, Head of Content, MCT

Robbie started his mortgage industry career with internships during high school and college at Peoples National Bank in Colorado, and RPM & Bay Equity in the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Finance in 2014, he went to work at SoFi, where he rose to Director, Capital Markets assisting in the creation of SoFi’s residential mortgage division before leaving to work for TMS in Austin, Texas. From there, he went to work for FinTech startup Riivos in San Francisco and now is the Head of Content at Mortgage Capital Trading (MCT) in San Diego.

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Previous Weekly Market Reviews by Mortgage Capital Trading (MCT)

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MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/23/22

The phrase “Don’t fight the Fed” was first introduced in the 70’s (a lovely time for inflation lovers) and for most of the last few decades, the phrase meant that the Fed has the market’s back and investors are rewarded for keeping their feet on the gas pedal as the Fed injects liquidity, dampens volatility, and drives outsized returns. But fighting the Fed cuts both ways, and Fed officials are now intent on taming prices, even though the economy is already in a technical recession. Investors have been forced to consider their positions accordingly.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/16/22

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MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/9/22

This year’s run up the coupon stack has led to the destruction of both purchase supply and refinance demand, which has drastically reduced prepayment activity. The Fed’s QE4 created a refinance bonanza in 2020 and 2021, but with the Fed leaving the MBS purchase space next week for the foreseeable future, that party is over. The MCT Review this week examines August prepayment speeds that were released yesterday and what to expect for the remainder of the year.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/2/22

In addition to raising the overnight Fed funds rate, the Fed is exiting the MBS and security purchase space as it wraps up QE4. The Fed will reduce its asset holdings by not reinvesting the funds received from maturing securities into new securities as it has been doing over the past two years. The MCT Review this week examines the Fed’s plans and the ultimate impact on a volatile bond market.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 8/26/22

This week’s commentary discusses market preparation and reaction to Fed Chairman Powell’s speech in Jackson Hole. As the Fed puts the brakes on the economy, the central bank is willing to let unemployment go up as a trade for getting inflation under control. Rate hikes are expected to continue as the Fed prioritizes driving down inflation rather than economic growth. Read the rest of this week’s market commentary for more information on the Fed and the MBS market.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 8/19/22

Every week the mortgage industry has new headlines. This week saw talk of Wells Fargo scaling back its mortgage division (possibly greatly exaggerated), MBA mortgage applications dropping to a 22-year low, and U.S. retail sales resiliently remaining flat despite a drop in gasoline prices, though the biggest story was Ginnie Mae and FHFA releasing jointly updated seller/servicer requirements.