High unemployment claims put an end to big forbearance declines

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After dropping 23 basis points in each of the past two weeks, the pace of mortgages going into coronavirus-related forbearance only declined a single basis point between Aug. 10 and Aug. 16, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The rate decreased for the tenth week in a row, with 7.2% of all outstanding loans — an estimated 3.6 million — sitting in forbearance plans compared to 7.21% and about 3.6 million the week prior. The share of forborne loans at independent mortgage bank servicers actually inched up to 7.43% from 7.42%, while depositories decreased to 7.48% from 7.49% in that same time.

"The extremely high rate of initial claims for unemployment insurance and high level of unemployment remain a concern, and are indications of the challenges many households are facing," Mike Fratantoni, the MBA's senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release. "While new forbearance requests remain low, particularly for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, the pace of exits from forbearance has declined for two straight weeks."

The Department of Labor's latest unemployment insurance claims report showed claims grew by 135,000 for the week ending Aug. 15 to a total of 1.1 million.

"This figure is a reversal of the prior week’s decline, and illustrates that the labor market’s ongoing recovery will be bumpy, with week-to-week fluctuations expected," Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, said in a press release. "The initial claims figure still remains well above the peak level seen during the previous recession, and we note that the headline number does not include an additional 543,000 claims filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, an increase from the prior week."

The forbearance share of conforming mortgages — those purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — fell to 4.93% from 4.94%. Ginnie Mae loans — Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service products — stayed static at 9.54%.

Private-label securities and portfolio loans — products not addressed by the coronavirus relief act — increased again this week to 10.37% from 10.34%.

Forbearance requests as a percentage of servicing portfolio volume inched down to 0.1% from 0.11%, while call center volume as a percentage of portfolio volume jumped to 8.7% from 7.9%.

The MBA's sample for this week's survey includes a total of 51 servicers with 26 independent mortgage bankers and 23 depositories. The sample also included two subservicers. By unit count, the respondents represented about 75%, or 37.3 million, of outstanding first-lien mortgages.

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