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Key releases that will be this week's highlight for REIT investors

Part 6
Key releases that will be this week's highlight for REIT investors (Part 6 of 6)

Why Ginnie Mae TBAs picked up 3 ticks on a flat bond market

Ginnie Mae TBAs rally with the bond market

The Fannie Mae to-be-announced (or TBA) market represents the usual conforming loan—the plain Fannie Mae 30-year mortgage. Meanwhile, Ginnie Mae TBAs are where government loans go—like to the Federal Housing Administration (or FHA) and Veterans Affairs (or VA) loans.

Ginnie Mae TBAEnlarge Graph

The biggest difference between a Fannie Mae mortgage-backed security (or MBS) and a Ginnie Mae MBS is that Ginnies have an explicit guarantee from the federal government. Fannies don’t have a guarantee. However, there’s a “wink wink, nudge nudge” guarantee. As a result, Ginnie Mae MBS trade at a premium to Fannie Mae TBAs.

There are also two different Ginnie Mae TBAs—Ginnie 1s and Ginnie 2s. Ginnie 1 TBAs include mortgages with the exact same coupon payment. Ginnie 2 TBAs can include a variety of coupons within a range.

Since you can have more certainty with Ginnie 1s compared to the 2s, the 1s typically trade at a premium. This premium can vary. You’ll often see investors switch between 1s and 2s as a relative value trade. The Ginnie Mae 1s tend to be more liquid than the 2s and have narrower bid-to-ask spreads.

Ginnie Mae MBS rally

The front-month Ginnie Mae TBAs were bid up as bonds rallied eight basis points. Ginnie Mae TBAs began the week at 106 11/32 and picked up 3 ticks to close at 106 14/32.

Implications for mortgage REITs

Mortgage REITs—like Annaly Capital (NLY), American Capital (AGNC), MFA Financial (MFA), and Capstead Mortgage (CMO)—announced big drops in book value per share. Rising rates hurt the value of their mortgage-backed security holdings. The REIT sector spent most of 2013 deleveraging to position itself for increases in rates.

As a general rule, a lack of volatility is good for mortgage REITs and the mortgage REIT ETF (MORT) because they hedge some of their interest rate risk. Increasing volatility in interest rates increases the cost of hedging. As interest rates rise, the expected maturity of the bond increases because there will be fewer pre-payments. On the other hand, if interest rates fall, the maturity shortens due to higher pre-payment risks.

Mechanically, this means mortgage REITs have to adjust their hedges and buy more protection when prices are high. They have to sell more protection when prices are low. This “buy-high, sell low” effect is called “negative convexity.” It explains why Ginnie Mae MBS yield so much more than Treasuries, which have an identical credit risk—none.

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