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Mortgage News Daily

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Lacker's Critique of Fed Policy; CFPB's Annual Report; Bank Auditors are People Too!
Posted to: Pipeline Press
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 8:42 AM

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While you're dining on turkey and watching football tomorrow (maybe not in that order) remember this touching story.

Folks continue to wonder about the Fed's program in buying and holding U.S. government securities AND agency mortgage-backed securities: issuing them from one department and buying them in another. I received this note: "I have to assume that the Fed is continuing to buy newly issued Treasury securities because otherwise the Treasury would now have to pay substantially higher rates to induce buyers, and such higher rates don't seem to be being paid. But it is very strange that no mention of the continuation of this bond-buying program can be found anywhere, only articles on Operation Twist. It seems to me that we are witnessing the most enormous legalized counterfeiting operation in the history of mankind, right out in the open and no one will shout out the obvious. I don't see how this ends well. Why doesn't anyone complain that the government is supporting itself, and merely printing money? It is almost as if it is peddling in the air, just because it thinks it can, and when it stops - boom! One branch of the government issues debt, the other buys it. One branch of the government sells MBS, the other buys it. It is all a way of printing money. Where would rates be if it weren't for this policy? How is the Treasury going to find sufficient buyers for its bonds without having to offer higher rates?  The answer to this question is crucial for financial markets to know." Great question.

Occasionally Fed officials make speeches. Most are fairly mundane, but just before his last voting appearance at the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) until 2015, Richmond Fed President Lacker, who has dissented at every meeting this year, is offering a harsh critique of Fed policy. Lacker says that he opposes linking policy to the Unemployment Rate, and the underlying rationale behind recent policy action. He doubts the effectiveness of MBS QE purchases and that in this policy action the Fed may well be abusing its 2009 accord with Treasury on credit allocation. Lacker suggested that if Fed doesn't limit its credit policy, the Congress may be forced to legislate such limitations. Further, Lacker suggests that if the Fed were to follow its plan to allow inflation to "temporarily" rise above target to help stimulate the economy, it would lose credibility "for decades to come."

Switching gears to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the CFPB has issued its Financial Report for fiscal year 2012. The report is divided into two parts: one part contains management's discussion and analysis and the second part contains the CFPB's financial statements and note disclosures. The CFPB grew from about 663 employees as of the end of FY 2011 to 970 as of the end of FY 2012 (which ended September 30).  As of the end of FY 2012, the CFPB's Division of Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending and the Division of Research, Markets and Regulations represented, respectively, 46.9% and 9% of total CFPB positions.  During FY 2012, the CFPB received $343.3 million in fund transfers from the Fed (more than double the $161.8 million in funds transferred in FY 2011).   Despite its significant growth during FY 2012, the report indicates that, as of the end of FY 2012 "the CFPB was still below the full employment levels and funding it estimates for its steady state in future years."

Given the size of the CFPB's Division of Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending group relative to the CFPB's other divisions, it certainly reinforces industry concerns about the CFPB's use of its enforcement authority as a substitute for rulemaking. The report also confirms that the CFPB is on-site at the largest depository institutions and that it likewise has exams underway at numerous other depository institutions, mortgage originators, mortgage servicers, and payday lenders. The report makes no mention of the results of the exams.  You can take a look for yourself.

Speaking of audits & exams, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision released a report on the internal audit function at banks. Community bankers take note: the report points out that a strong internal audit function (or externally hired to perform the function) must have "sufficient authority, stature, independence, resources and access to the board of directors." This is important not only to ensure the overall functioning of risk management is robust, but also to help protect the bank, so it is a best practice. Audit the audit process! Internal audit teams must be "independent, competent and qualified." Believe it or not, this is not always the case, especially since auditors need to understand the bank's own unique areas of operation. Every activity (even if outsourced) and every entity of the bank falls within the scope of the internal audit function, right? That means no group, product, or service should be excluded from the audit process. The audit team should report to the audit committee and it must not only have high integrity, but also have a plan broad enough to capture areas of potential risk. Lastly, it is important for management to help all employees understand what auditors do and why they are at the bank. Bank and vendor employees should understand their true function (ongoing maintenance and assessment of internal control, risk management and governance systems and processes), and can open up lines of communication between departments and audit teams.

Hey, auditors have rules too! And they have a defined process, with "being a buddy to everyone else" probably not on the list. The audit team's role is to identify areas of potential risk for bank management and provide ways to mitigate potential issues, and employees should be reminded that it is better to have the internal team do this and not the bank examiners or the CFPB. Regulators expect internal audit teams (whether actually internal or hired to do the function) to be fully prepared before any process begins. In general, the internal audit team is expected to have "an independent and informed view of the risks faced by the bank." Heck, that can take months alone! Regulators also expect banks to make sure audits are based on not only files and records; but also a deeper dive into data, a process of inquiry and a professional approach.
Once audit teams have completed their review, regulators expect them to discuss their views, findings and conclusions directly with the audit committee and the board of directors. I am on the board of a bank, and this is exactly what happens. Mortgage companies may feel that they are not going to be held accountable for such things - but my guess is that is an incorrect assumption. Sooner or later... (More on this Friday!)

On to a couple relatively recent agency and investor updates.

First, a clarification: on the 16th the commentary had, "Freddie Mac has issued temporary guidance on property valuation documentation, which can't be dated more than 180 days before the Note date (the previous requirement was 80 days).  The same age requirement applies to underwriting documentation." To clarify, a representative from Freddie Mac noted, "Freddie's age of property valuation and underwriting documentation requirement is no older than 120 days as of the Note.  The 180 day requirement you mentioned applies only to mortgages secured by properties located in eligible Disaster Areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  Eligible disaster areas are Major Disaster Areas declared by the President where individual federal assistance is being made available." Thank you!

Everbank revised its re-lock and extension policies for re-locks expired by 60 days or fewer.  If the current market is worse, worse case pricing will apply for a one-time relock, while loans are eligible to re-lock at a 25 bps cost for a maximum of 30 days if the market is better.  In order to re-lock, loans must have at least "Approved with Conditions" status, and re-locks of more than 30 days are not permitted.  This option is only available for locks that haven't already re-locked.

SunWest has updated its Appraiser Exclusionary List, which is available via SunSOFT.

Pinnacle Capital has updated guidance on minimum trade line requirements for Cascade Jumbos, LPMI eligibility for conforming loans with LTVs between 95-97%, LTV/CLTV/HCLTV requirements for conforming ARMs, Enhanced DU Refi Plus mortgage insurance, FHA garage conversion, LTV/CLTV/HCLTV parameters for Pinnacle Plus products, and age of document requirements for USDA loans.

Flipping over to the markets today is a full day of fixed-income and stock trading, tomorrow is a holiday, and Friday is an early close. But in spite of the upcoming illiquidity, and conservative pricing on Friday, what LO wants to lock today and basically immediately lose several days of precious processing time? But in recent days mortgage prices have done very well relative to Treasury prices and certainly relative to the worsening at the end of last week - almost as if investors suddenly remembered that the Fed is in buying more agency loans (Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie) than are being produced.

Speaking of production, this morning we learned what lock desks knew last week: mortgage applications dropped 13% from the prior week. Some of this was attributed to higher rates, but factoring in the Veteran's Day holiday resulted in an adjusted drop of only 2.2%. The share of applications filed to refinance an existing mortgage was unchanged from the prior week at 81% of total applications. Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, increased to 4% of total activity.

So on Tuesday MBS prices were worse about .125-.250 - but we started off near there, and I didn't notice any rash of price changes. We've already had weekly Jobless Claims, a day early, and although it was expected to drop from 439k to 410k, it came out spot on at 410k (from an upwardly revised 451k from the previous week). We also have some University of Michigan survey, but also the more important Leading indicators for October expected to have increased +0.1 (vs. +0.6). In the early going the 10-yr., which closed at 1.66%, is sitting at 1.67% - the highest in a few weeks, and MBS prices are roughly .125 worse.


In this time of year of 2013 predictions, let's take a look at previous thoughts on the future. (Part 3 of 3.)
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, France.
"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.
"The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over Niagara Falls to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required."
Professor of Electrical Engineering, New York University.
"I don't know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn't be a feasible business by itself."
The head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse , 1872
"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."
Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.
And last but not least...
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
And lastly,
In 1980, McKinsey & Company was commissioned by AT&T (whose Bell Labs had invented cellular telephony) to forecast cell phone penetration in the U.S. by 2000. The consultant's prediction, 900,000 subscribers, was less than 1% of the actual figure, 109 Million. Based on this legendary mistake, AT&T decided there was not much future to these "toys." A decade later, to rejoin the cellular market, AT&T had to acquire McCaw Cellular for $12.6 billion. By 2011, the number of subscribers worldwide had surpassed 5 billion and cellular communication had become an unprecedented technological revolution.




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Mortgage Rates:
  • 30 Yr FRM 4.24%
  • |
  • 15 Yr FRM 3.39%
  • |
  • Jumbo 30 Year Fixed 4.09%
MBS Prices:
  • 30YR FNMA 4.5 107-16 (0-03)
  • |
  • 30YR FNMA 5.0 109-32 (0-02)
  • |
  • 30YR FNMA 5.5 111-06 (0-00)
Recent Housing Data:
  • Mortgage Apps -7.23%
  • |
  • Refinance Index -10.65%
  • |
  • FHFA Home Price Index 0.67%