June 23, 2015
What’s Behind Rising Mortgage Bond Issuance?
GlobeSt.com quoted me in What Else Is Behind Rising Mortgage Bond Issuance, Demand?. It opens,
Investor demand for mortgage bonds, both that have agency backing and not, is quite high these days.
Last week Bloomberg reported that issuance of home-loan securities that don’t have government backing reached more than $32 billion this year, compared to $18 billion a year ago, citing data compiled by Bloomberg and Bank of America Corp. These securities include rental-home bonds, a relatively new asset class that developed after the recession.
Agency and GSE securities are also in high demand, as a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association indicates. The level of commercial/multifamily mortgage debt outstanding increased by $40.4 billion in the first quarter of 2015 — a 1.5% increase over the fourth quarter of 2014. Said Jamie Woodwell, MBA’s Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Research with the report’s release: “Multifamily mortgages continued to grow even more quickly than the market as a whole, with banks increasing their portfolios by $8 billion and agency and GSE portfolios and MBS increasing their holdings by $10 billion.”
There are a number of economic-based drivers behind the demand for mortgage bonds of course: the fundamentals in the real estate space and the low interest rates that have driven investors to consider all manner of securities to eek out yield.
However, there is another possibility to consider as well and that is that the changing financial regulations are driving both issuance and investment.
On one hand, mortgages and private-label mortgage backed securities are much more regulated per Dodd-Frank and its Qualified Mortgage and Qualified Residential Mortgage rules, according to David Reiss, professor of Law and research director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) at Brooklyn Law School. On the other, post-crisis rules put in place for mortgage bonds have made these securities far more attractive for banks to hold as various news reports suggest.
For example, new rules have made ratings on mortgage bonds less crucial, allowing US lenders to use an alternative approach to calculating capital requirements, according to another recent article in Bloomberg. In essence, these rules allow lenders to reduce the amount needed for junk-rated mortgage bonds that are trading at discounts.
In addition, banks are finding that “treasury debt and MBS pass-throughs meet regulators’ standards much more easily than other assets”, according to a report by Deutsche Bank analysts Steven Abrahams and Christopher Helwig, per a third recent article in Bloomberg.
With these facts in mind we turned to two experts to see how much of an impact new regulations are having. As it turned out, they are driving some of the change – but what is actually moving the needle in terms of demand is yet another trend. Read on.
For starters, there are some caveats. It can be misleading to throw the new rental home bonds in the mix in such a comparison, Reiss tells GlobeSt.com. “They are a post-crisis product when Wall Street firms saw that single-family housing prices were so low that they could make money from buying them up in bulk and then renting them out,” he says.
“They are not regulated in the same way as private-label MBS.”
Meanwhile issuers are still navigating Dodd-Frank’s Qualified Mortgage and Qualified Residential Mortgage rules, he says. They “are still trying to figure out how to operate within these rules — and outside of them, with the origination of non-QM mortgages. The market is still in transition with these products.”
As he sees it, the surge in issuance is a reflection of market players trying to understand how to operate in a new regulatory environment. They “are increasing their issuances as they get a better sense of how to do so.”