THE BASIS POINT

Are Brokers Or Banks Doing Bad Loans?, Pending Home Sales +3.2%, Wells To Repay TARP?

Just when mortgage brokers thought that it was safe to go back into the water and they were out of the headlines… In a story based on a Columbia University working paper that studied 700,000 loans made by a major national mortgage bank from 2004 to 2008, every loan originated by brokers is performing! Oh, sorry, I misread that. Actually, for loans originated by brokers they were 50% more likely to be delinquent than loans originated by the bank. And here’s another shocker: higher reported incomes on low-doc loans often corresponded with higher delinquency rates. Stunning. The study goes on to suggest that securitization, whereby the banks didn’t necessarily have to hold on to their own production, also led to lower underwriting standards.
http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2009/09/01/delinquency-rates-higher-on-broker-originated-mortgages/

IRS Loan Tracking
If you’re an honest, law-biding citizen, should you care if the IRS starts comparing mortgage payments and income? What about if you’re a roofer who makes half his income in cash? If Jane Doe claims she makes $2,000 per month on her taxes, yet her mortgage payment is $3,500, should that be a reason for Ms. Doe to be investigated? In yet another story yesterday, it appears that the IRS “will study whether it should make greater use of data on mortgage-interest payments provided to it by banks.” The IRS currently uses such data to send notices to non-filers who it believes should have filed a return. The data could also be used to target for audits individuals who don’t file tax returns, or who report less income than they paid in mortgage interest. Of course, if you’re a struggling borrower that is using money out of your savings account, or from Mom & Dad, to make the mortgage payment, you don’t need two guys with badges showing up at your office….

Wells TARP
Wells Fargo was in the rumor mill yesterday, not for anything mortgage-related but rather on if and when it is going to pay back the government TARP money. The rumors prompted its CEO to make a statement that Wells will not be selling more stock to pay back its TARP monies but rather use its earnings. Wells, in addition to Citi and Bank of America, have not paid back any TARP money yet. Although $25 or $26 billion is a big chunk of change, Wells has been having its best results in its history and has had made money by cutting its dividend. Let’s hope that they keep buying mortgages!

Yesterday was one of those days when it was better to own fixed-income securities than to own stocks. As it turned out, there were rumors swirling about Wells Fargo (see above), and this caused the herd to shuffle into the proverbial “flight to quality”. Besides, many think that the stock market has gotten a little ahead of itself in recent weeks, and took some profits by selling. Regardless, bonds did well, and rates came down. But as I have said, few are complaining about rates – they are too busy wondering if guidelines will ever loosen up.

Economic Stats Update
What moved rates yesterday? Construction Spending was -0.2% in July, and year-over-year spending is down 10.5%. The Institute for Supply Management’s Factory Index increased to 52.9 in August, better than expected. We also had the National Association of Realtors report that Pending Home Sales were up 3.2%, more than forecast, and once again attributed to lower rates, less expensive houses, and the tax credit (which expires around Thanksgiving). So go figure: better news across the board should have moved the stock market higher and bonds lower, but the reverse happened.

Today we have Factory Orders and the FOMC Minutes, although we have already seen mortgage applications. U.S. mortgage applications were down last week a little over 2%, with purchase apps declining for the first time since early July. Purchase loan applications dipped 1%, and applications to refinance fell about 3%. We also had the ADP employment numbers, which don’t include government jobs, which showed that job losses in the U.S. private sector fell to their lowest monthly level in nearly a year. “Only” 298,000 jobs were cut in August. After this tidbit we find the 10-yr at 3.36% and mortgage securities about unchanged.

Daily Humor
The following was actually developed as a mental age assessment by the School of Psychiatry at Harvard University. Take your time and see if you can read each line aloud without a mistake. The average person over 40 years of age cannot do it!

1. This is this cat.
2. This is is cat.
3. This is how cat.
4. This is to cat.
5. This is keep cat.
6. This is an cat.
7. This is old cat.
8. This is geezer cat.
9. This is busy cat.
10. This is for cat.
11. This is forty cat.
12. This is seconds cat.

Now, go back and read the third word in each line from the top down.