Mortgage rates are a critical input to the housing market
Mortgage rates are the lifeblood of the housing market, and the Fed’s plan to help housing began with pushing rates lower in order to allow people to refinance. The central bank also hoped that lowering mortgage rates would support home prices.
The government’s focus now is to draw first-time homebuyers into the market. The government has been announcing measures to increase credit availability for the first-time homebuyer. We’ll see if the changes actually affect buying patterns.
Mortgage rates continue to fade the bond market
Mortgage rates rose in spite of a decent rally in the bond market. The 10-year bond yield decreased 8 basis points, and mortgage rates increased by 3 basis points from 3.76% to 3.79%.
We have seen tremendous volatility in the 10-year bond rate over the past month, so mortgage rates have tended to lag or “fade” these moves. This is another example of mortgage rates fading the 10-year bond yield.
Effect on mortgage REITs
Mortgage bankers like Nationstar (NSM) are in a position to perhaps wring out a good 2015 after a dismal 2014. Certainly the MBA mortgage banking indices indicate an improvement.
It looks like we have prepayment burnout at rates around these levels. It isn’t until rates hit the 3.8% level that prepays start kicking in. REITs that focus on agency MBS, like Annaly Capital (NLY) and American Capital Agency (AGNC), will have to deal with the combination of lower rates and increased prepayment speeds if mortgage rates fall back toward the lows.
Investors interested in trading in the mortgage REIT sector via an ETF should look at the iShares Mortgage Real Estate Fund (REM). Investors who are interested in making directional bets on interest rates should look at the iShares 20-Year Bond ETF (TLT).