Lenders are heading into the Mortgage Bankers Association's Secondary Market Conference with stronger origination volumes and secondary market relationships than last year.
But how long will these volumes last, and how can the industry make the most of them? These are the questions MBA Secondary attendees will no doubt be considering. With that in mind, here are some of the topics likely to come up.
The spread between the primary market rate that lenders sell loans to borrowers and the rate they can sell loans at in the secondary market has been narrowing, according to Walter Schmidt, senior vice president and manager of mortgage strategies at FTN Financial Capital Markets.
Is this worrisome? Unless the unexpected drop in rates this year took a toll on servicing, mortgage bankers who survived 2014 probably aren't being hit too hard by it, said Tom Millon, president and CEO of the Capital Markets Cooperative.
"We certainly look at it and we're way ahead of forecast for year-to-date on the origination side and the profits that are expected from origination," he said.
Is Current Volume Sustainable?
How long can mortgage bankers maintain the current flow of volume?
"Interest rates really made a full round trip from Dec. 31, 2014 until now. We kind of went down 50 basis points in rate and back up 50 basis points in rate," said Millon.
Millon thinks volume will be sustained by spring homebuyers who are giving the business its usual seasonal boost, as well as growing strength in the purchase market.
However, some expect there could be at least a temporary slowdown this summer when integrated disclosures stemming from reform of the Truth in Lending and Real Estate Settlement Procedures acts are slated to go into effect in August.
While good news for originations, the unexpected rate decline was bad for some servicers who lacked effective interest rate hedges.
The downward rate-shock might have scared or hurt some lenders selling on a servicing-retained basis and servicers involved in co-issue arrangements in the short-term.
But selling direct to the agencies is still generally attractive and there has been little change in the number of correspondent buyers that serve as an alternative, according to Millon.
"The concept of retaining servicing or getting loans committed straight to Fannie, Freddie or into a Ginnie pool that trade is still very much in vogue make a lot of sense," he said. "Some of the servicers got scared at the end of January when rates really were plummeting, but now that rates are all the way back, servicing portfolios are intact, and everybody's fine."
Agency MBS Liquidity
Agency MBS trading volumes have been trending downward, but it's not a concern for mortgage bankers selling to the agencies, said Millon.
"In the primary origination market that sells a TBA for July settlement, there's still plenty of liquidity," he said.
Who Is Buying MBS Today?
There was at least $35 billion in MBS bank buying during the first quarter, although purchases have since slowed, said Mahesh Swaminathan, group head in the residential mortgages division of Credit Suisse's global securitized products research group.
"We expect another $20 billion of net purchases through the end of the year, but that could prove conservative," he said.
Buying outside the U.S. also has been strong, said Swaminathan.
"We expect net $40 billion of MBS purchases from foreign investors," he said. They continue to prefer Ginnie's more explicit government guarantee, but there are "pockets of demand" for Fannie's and Freddie's MBS.
Investors only differentiate at the originator level when it comes to "prepay characteristics when looking at specified pools," he said.