Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fixed Jumbo Mortgage Rates at Historic Lows

Cross post.

Los Angeles Feb 24th (

Warning: A little technical.This is the Whole Wheat 8 Grain Variety of our ongoing commentary on the jumbo mortgage market.

As the top chart shows, 30-year fixed rate jumbo mortgage rates are going for a post-crisis low, a rate not seen since 2005. With a few scattered exceptions, the rate you get today is about as low as it has ever been in history. Conforming rates are still very close to all-time lows.

As the second chart shows, the Federal Reserve has put on the books about $1.25T of mortgage securities(tan section) which completes the program as announced. Anything could change as the conforming mortgage market tries to stand on its own. If rates skyrocket(unlikely) expect FED action as a stable housing market is a distinct policy of the Obama Administration and the too big to fail banks. The TBTF are sitting on north of 4m homes that they will need to short sale or foreclose on this year per various estimates being thrown around the industry.

FED Assets

The fundamentals driving the jumbo mortgage rates (i.e., 10-year Treasury yields and the spread between MBS and Treasury yields that investors demand in order to compensate them for the prepayment risk of mortgage-backed securities) suggest that we are very unlikely to see rates go lower than they are now. Treasury yields are quite low from a historical perspective, and spreads are about as tight as they have ever been.

One other interesting fact that shows up in the first chart is that the difference between jumbo and conforming mortgage rates is still quite large given that a conforming 30Y fixed is at 4.75% currently. That means that even if conforming rates move higher, it will likely take awhile before jumbo rates move much higher; the spread between them could compress by another 25-50 bps for the absolute Super Prime Credits with 30-40% equity and substantial investment assets. aka Money Good Credits.

However, I should also point out that the declining spread between jumbo and conforming loan rates is a very good sign that private capital is returning to the jumbo mortgage market in general. The Fed is only buying conforming mortgages, not jumbos, so jumbos have been outperforming conforming MBS, which in turn suggests that private capital has been actively seeking out the higher yields on jumbos. That is also an indication that when the Fed stops buying MBS at the end of March, there is no reason to expect jumbo mortgage rates to move significantly higher. A lot of pressure is building because of the RECORD default rate of 9.6% which prevents investors such as pension funds, insurance companies and mutual funds from aggressively buying jumbo mortgage bonds. These twin forces lead us to believe we will see rates in the 5.75-6.50% range on the 30Y Fixed Jumbo Loan throughout the year.

We continue to believe that prospective homebuyers and most long term homeowners would be well-served to choose a 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage instead of an adjustable rate. But, one size fits all advice never works as you well know.  Fixed rates are very low from a historical perspective, while the short-term rates that drive ARMs are very likely to rise significantly in coming years. With the fixed rate you get the certainty of locking in a historically low jumbo loan rate, but with adjustable rates you are exposed to considerable uncertainty down the road, because no one knows today how high short-term rates will be in the future. We always advise matching the loan term with personal and financial plans.

Have a prosperous day.