THE BASIS POINT

Luxury Real Estate Suffering, Great Day In Rate Markets, Bernanke 2nd Term, Mortgage Broker Comp Changes

Do you tend to buy stocks or real estate when the market is improving? And sell when the market is worsening? If so, join the crowd. This action, of course, creates its own “feedback loop”, also called “price-to-price feedback”. When the feedback stops, markets often turn around, or a speculative bubble bursts. Astute traders include watching stock volumes during trading days, although they must make allowances for things like summer vacations, the day before a 3-day weekend, etc. But speaking of volumes, I am currently sitting here in Nevada, in the Lake Tahoe area, looking out over a vast sea of “For Sale” signs – I have never seen so many. According to the MBAA, 21% of Nevada’s mortgages are delinquent or in foreclosure. Why would anyone expect real estate prices to increase, given typical supply and demand activity?

It is generally accepted that the high-end real estate is feeling the brunt of the credit crisis right now. Given the higher unemployment, the uncertainty about the future of expensive properties, and the loss of a liquid jumbo lending market across the nation, I have yet to see any analysts bullish on properties worth more than $1 million. The “lower” end properties, however, are benefiting from low interest rates, renewed attention from mortgage investors and the US government, and demand for foreclosure sales. Interesting times…

Great Day In Rate Markets
What happened Monday in the markets? Well, after an ugly Friday afternoon, fixed income securities came roaring back with prices improving and rates inching lower. Most investors had intra-day price improvements. Locks and originations are down somewhat, which helps, The Fed was in doing their usual buy-back of securities, and the stock market losing a little steam didn’t hurt bonds either. For mortgage-backed securities, a 4.5% coupon security (which would contain 4.75-5.125% mortgages) is priced at about a .5 discount. But by the time an investor adds their servicing released premium of 1-2 points, suddenly the secondary market is paying .5-1.5 over par for these loans. There is still profit in originations!

2yr Treasury Auction & Case Shiller Today
We have the 2-yr auction today. Who will pony up to buy a piece of the $42 billion and earn about 1.02% for two years? We’ll see, but many expect it to go well. Ben Bernanke has been nominated by Obama for a second term as Federal Reserve Chief, which is helping to calm markets. We will also have the S&P/Case Shiller Index, and at 7AM PST we’ll have the Consumer Confidence numbers. Mortgage prices are roughly unchanged from Monday afternoon, and the 10-yr is chopping around 3.50%.

Bernanke Second Term
As noted above, Bernanke has been nominated for a second term. His nomination for a second four-year term, which would start in late January, requires Senate approval and was endorsed by the head of the Banking Committee, Christopher Dodd. So don’t look for too many surprises during the process.

Mortgage Broker Comp Rules Coming
Do you remember how there was a public opinion period for the HVCC, which passed, and then when HVCC was put in place everyone was upset? Well, apparently the Fed is addressing how mortgage loan officers are paid. Given that a loan originator or mortgage broker “is any person who for compensation or other monetary gain arranges, negotiates, or otherwise obtains an extension of consumer credit for another person”; you’ll have to check out the website below. I don’t have the attention span to go through the entire document, but it doesn’t look good.

BofA Pays Lawsuit, Taylor Bean, Other Lender Updates
Bank of America has agreed to pay $150 million to settle a lawsuit alleging Merrill Lynch executives mislead investors about the bank’s condition. The suit targeted a number of Merrill Lynch executives and board members, including the former CEO. We all remember that Bank of America formally acquired Merrill Lynch at the start of the year after agreeing to buy the struggling investment bank last fall.

In news that surprised no one, Taylor, Bean & Whitaker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and said it may liquidate, three weeks after it closed its mortgage lending business. TBW said it plans to operate on a scaled-down basis as it works to recover, restructure and possibly liquidate its assets – not an easy task with more than $1 billion of both assets and liabilities, and between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors.

StoneWater Mortgage clarified their stance on the MDIA regulations, saying that “loans submitted to SWM on or after September 1st, 2009 may not have collected any fees other than for a credit report prior to the borrower(s) receiving the SWM early TIL/GFE. All loan submissions not in compliance with SWM MDIA policies will be stopped. SWM will use the estimated fund date from the loan submission screen to calculate the interest for all disclosures. SWM will disclose a 3% YSP on non-locked loans if the business partner’s GFE does not disclose a YSP figure.”

When was the last time a borrower asked Franklin American for a 40-yr loan? It must have been a long time, because due to a lack of demand FAMC has removed the 40 year fixed rate mortgage as an option from their rate sheet.

Daily Humor
[Warning: PG-rated.]
Old people have problems that you haven’t even considered yet! An 85-year-old man was requested by his doctor for a sperm count as part of his physical exam. The doctor gave the man a jar and said, ‘”Take this jar home and bring back a semen sample tomorrow.”
The next day the 85-year-old man reappeared at the doctor’s office and gave him the jar, which was as clean and empty as on the previous day.
The doctor asked what happened and the man explained:
“Well, doc, it’s like this–first I tried with my right hand, but nothing. Then I tried with my left hand, but still nothing.. ‘Then I asked my wife for help. She tried with her right hand, then with her left, still nothing. She tried with her mouth, first with the teeth in, then with her teeth out, still nothing. ‘We even called up Arleen, the lady next door and she tried too. First with both hands, then an armpit, and she even tried squeezing’ it between her knees, but still nothing.”
The doctor was shocked! “You asked your neighbor?”
The old man replied, “Yep, none of us could get the jar open.”