MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 4/29/22

It doesn’t take a psychic to predict Treasury and mortgage-backed security (MBS) yields moving higher as quantitative easing winds down. What we are seeing with widening spreads is a natural recourse after the previous two years the mortgage industry enjoyed. Trillions of dollars were pumped into securities markets, driving yields lower and spreads tighter. Estimates are that Fed purchases of MBS pulled rates down by about 50 bps or so on average. So, when the Fed moves to drain that massive stimulus from the market, the opposite will naturally occur. Those that have been in the mortgage industry long enough have been witness to these market cycles before, so there is little reason to panic.

But at what point does a sell-off go too far? The rate on a 30-year mortgage has shot up over 200 bps since the beginning of the year due to expectations of aggressive Fed tightening on its balance sheet and an expected peak to fed funds rate of around 3.00% to 3.25%. With mortgage rates increasing to the highest level since 2009 or 2010 (depending on what index you are viewing), mortgage applications continue to decline. Refinances as a percentage of all applications have dropped to the lowest level over the past five years, and on the home buying front, the sudden large gains in mortgage rates have reduced the pool of eligible homebuyers. In the secondary market, we are seeing securities at 94 trading with more liquidity than those at 104.

Over the past 20 years or so, the spread between the 10-year U.S. Treasury and the 30-year mortgage rate has stayed in a roughly 150 bps to 200 bps range. But during recessions, the spread has moved outside this range. The spread shot up to roughly 300 bps during parts of the 2008 financial crisis, and jumped over 200 bps again in March 2020 before falling significantly in the following months. Spread compression since that point has coincided with massive purchases of agency MBS by the Fed. In 2022, the mortgage spread has trended up and is now a bit higher than 200 bps. Put another way, the rate on the 30-year mortgage has risen by significantly more than the yield on the 10-year Treasury security since the beginning of the year, and that Treasury yield has increased markedly.

The Federal Reserve will soon allow some MBS to roll off its balance sheet and stop reinvesting the principal payments received from its holdings of Treasury securities and MBS, just as the central bank did between late 2017 and mid-2019. Will this planned balance sheet shrinkage cause mortgage rates to shoot even higher? Maybe, maybe not. There is a significant amount of monetary policy tightening that is already priced into financial markets. In theory, yields on longer-dated Treasury securities, and by extension, mortgage rates, should not rise much further if the Federal Reserve raises rates in line with current market expectations. 

Central bank purchases of MBS since 2009 have pulled down the benchmark 30-year MBS yield by a larger amount than they have the rate on the 30-year mortgage, so it is reasonable to expect that MBS yields may face more upward pressure than actual mortgage rates as the Fed allows some MBS holdings to roll off its balance sheet in the coming months. The last time the Federal Reserve allowed securities to roll off its balance sheet (during the aforementioned 2017-2019 period), MBS yields notably rose a bit more than rates on a 30-year mortgage. Markets are forward-looking, and the effects of balance sheet runoff may already be priced into MBS yields, at least to some extent. That said, even if mortgage spreads only widened a bit further, the actual level of mortgage rates could keep rising if longer-term Treasury yields continue their upward ascent, a distinct possibility in this environment of heightened economic uncertainty. 

Talk of stagflation is setting in, with the U.S. Q1 GDP declining into negative territory and inflation still at a four-decade high. Expectations are that inflation will moderate gradually over the next year or two, such that the FOMC does not need to take the federal funds rate materially above 3%. There are risks where rates need to go even higher to re-establish price stability. As has been understood for some time, it is a tough balancing act for the Fed. Swap traders are pricing in about 140 bps of hikes over the Fed’s next three meetings. The last time it carried out back-to-back increases of 50 bps or more was in August 1984. Fortunately, the 30-year mortgage rate likely will not rise as much as the yield on the 30-year MBS as the Fed’s MBS holdings decline.

All that being said, the economic outlook is highly uncertain, and mortgage rates could move higher than current expectations. With a lot of sharp moves in the market, it helps to have actionable recommendations to protect your business and pipeline. Check out our most recent webinar Taper Tantrum Two? Comparing 2013 to 2022 & What Lenders Can Do. In this webinar, Phil Rasori, Justin Grant, and Andrew Rhodes compared 2013 to 2022 in terms of the deteriorating market, market liquidity in specific coupons, loan sale execution liquidity, and investor pricing performance.

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

There are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation (higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions) that will bring some pain to households and businesses, but a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater economic pain. Markets have interpreted recent Fed comments as: “We are going to raise rates higher and keep them there longer than the market is anticipating. People now understand the seriousness of our commitment to getting inflation back down to 2%. If we have a hard landing and cause a recession, so be it.”

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.