Mortgage-backed bonds still attract investors

I often reference “mortgage-backed bonds” (AKA MBS’s) in my daily rate updates.  If you follow rate update consistently then you know that when MBS prices fall interest rates rise and vice versa. 

The WSJ published a story today regarding investor confidence in high-quality MBS’s and how they remain attractive for bond investor guru Bill Gross & PIMCO. 

Here are a few good takeaways and what it may mean for interest rates in the near term:

* “Freddie’s mortgage bonds were trading at a risk premium of around 2.64 percentage points over the 10-year Treasury note’s yield, which was quoted late Thursday at 3.837%.” -A ‘risk premium’ is the spread that an investment earns above and beyond the 10-year US Treasury note (considered to be an extremely safe investment).  The idea is that the larger the spread the more risky the market perceives that investment.  The current spread between MBS’s & 10-year Treasury notes is relatively high compared to historical standards.  The good news is that in all likelihood we will see the spreads shrink in the future which means mortgage rates will have to come down or Treasury yields will have to move higher (or some combination of the two). 

* “Even though Congress passed legislation last month allowing the Treasury Department to provide liquidity to Fannie and Freddie, the Treasury has stopped short of announcing any immediate bailout plans. The uncertainty about the government’s plans have fueled sharp price swings in the companies’ stocks, bonds and mortgage bonds” -This helps to explain why mortgage rates have been as volatile as they have been over the past couple weeks.  This will likely persist for a few months.

* “Fannie and Freddie guarantee or own nearly half of the total $12 trillion U.S. mortgages outstanding. They have long been the mortgage-bond market’s backstop, stepping in to buy when other investors have failed to materialize. With their finances under pressure, however — both companies have reported losses as the housing market has weakened sharply — they have been curtailing their mortgage purchases.” -This is not terribly encouraging.  The housing market needs the two GSE’s to stabilize the secondary market for mortgages.