The Wall Street Journal reported that during tomorrow's European Central Bank (ECB) meeting the executive board of the ECB will recommend to the entire 25-member governing council a plan to begin a sovereign bond purchase program. The plan, which would be similar to the quantitative easing (QE) program used by the US Fed in recent years, would call for purchases of 50 billion euros (about $58 billion) per month for a minimum of one year. These figures are roughly in line with investor expectations, and the reaction in MBS markets has been small so far. If the governing council adopts this plan tomorrow, the impact on MBS may be small.
The Fed will end its Treasury and MBS purchases next month, but the impact on mortgage rates likely will be small. Over the last few years, these bond purchases, known as quantitative easing, helped push mortgage rates down to the lowest levels in decades. Mortgage rates then moved off their historic lows in May of last year when the Fed unexpectedly announced that it would soon taper the bond purchases. Since then, the decreases in monthly purchases have been anticipated far in advance by investors, causing little market reaction. As a result of quantitative easing, the Fed was the eventual investor in the majority of all mortgages originated during the bond purchase program. The Treasury and MBS purchases have caused the Fed’s balance sheet to expand to roughly $4.4 trillion dollars from less than $1.0 trillion in 2007. While the Fed will no longer purchase additional bonds, it will hold the size of its portfolio steady by reinvesting maturing securities. Eventually, though, Fed officials intend to reduce their holdings of MBS. Investors will be looking for hints about the timing for the Fed to begin to shrink its portfolio and for the pace at which it will occur. The [...]
MBS prices were volatile last week and fell about half a point during the week. Most of the push for MBS prices lower came from weak Treasury auctions. On Wednesday the 5 Yr Treasury Note received lower than usual demand, especially from foreign investors, and the yield required from the bidders was higher than the previous trading range. The weakness in the Treasury auction spilled over to the MBS market. The economic data released during the week was mixed with Durable Orders better than expected and the housing data was a little weaker than expected. All of the focus in Congress now that Health Care has passed seems to be with the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010. This proposed law will have sweeping changes for the mortgage industry, if passed. It includes the creation of a new regulator for consumer protection, retention of 5% of the risk on loans originated and then sold, and increased HMDA reporting requirements, among other things. This 1300 page bill seems to be on a fast track. Discussion continued on the risks and benefits of converting a mortgage company’s operations from a best efforts delivery of loans originated to a mandatory delivery. The [...]