I think all of us would agree that the Housing Finance System in this country is broken. The ability for the once powerful secondary marketing vehicles to provide liquidity to the housing industry is at risk. Private securitization has been out of business for over two years, the agency markets required the Federal Reserve to step in to support it, and Ginnie Mae is struggling to cope with volumes four to five times the norm under the restrictions of a charter that is outdated for the times. And if this isn’t enough, the new FAS 166 & 167 rulings could strike a blow to restrict investor participation to an already embattled agency market.

Effective January 1, 2010 the GSE’s were required to place on balance sheets all loans currently in securities that have historically been carried off balance sheets. This action could have many unintended consequences, but the one that stands out is the potential harm it could have to the investor markets.

Historically, under GSE policies a seriously delinquent loan must be bought out of a pool when certain events occurred. This policy required agencies to buy the loan out of said pool when it reached 90-days; however, this policy did not obligate the buyout to occur. The reason being any loan bought out of the pool would have to appear on the balance sheet but not at par, rather at 40% of par. This discount caused by NPV calculations required the GSE’s to borrow funds from the Treasury, and that capital was expensive. Therefore, until an event occurred, the GSE’s typically allowed 90-day plus loans to stay in the pools since it was cheaper to continue to pay the investor the principle and interest then it was to borrower capital to buy the loan out of the pool.

Now FAS 166 & 167 requires all loans that the GSE’s are guaranteeing to the investor community to be boarded onto their balance sheets. This event would be cataclysmic if the GSE’s were not under conservatorship and would be required to follow regulatory capital guidelines however the boarding of approximately five trillion of assets on to their balance sheets maybe more detrimental to the bond buying community then to the GSE’s.

The action required by the new FAS rules has provided an opportunity for the GSE’s to buy loans that reach the 90-day delinquent status out of pools without penalty related to capital borrowings. Since the loans in question are required to be placed on the balance sheet, there is no need to discount them to the 40% NPV level. Rather, any loan bought of the pool would only require the standard loan loss reserve to be setup against any potential loss. This requirement is far less expensive then the requirement prior to new FAS ruling.

So what does this mean for the investor? It may mean that new conditions now exists that enable the GSE’s to buy loans out of the pools, without penalty, sooner versus later.  If this occurs and it could; prepayment speeds would increase causing the investor to experience a material impact on the value of their investment.  Leaving some to ponder at the end of the day…do we really need another blow to the investor marketplace???