What do Canada, Germany, France and the United Kingdom have in common? Their debt (and a few other smaller countries) is rated AAA by Standard & Poor's - just like the U.S's was prior to Friday afternoon. But not no mo' for the U.S. The S&P's downgrade of the USA on Friday to AA+ was not entirely unexpected, although it was perhaps a little sooner than "experts" thought. Over the weekend expectations included a negative initial reaction in risk assets and in Treasuries, wider spreads in agency MBS's (meaning higher mortgage rates), a weaker dollar, and higher bullion prices.

For banks, the Fed already came out right after the announcement with: "For risk-based capital purposes, the risk weights for Treasury securities and other securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, government agencies and government- sponsored enterprises will not change." So for banks this looks like a non-event although with bilateral ISDA contracts and collateral agreements at clearing houses (DTC, FICC, etc.) there could be problems when it comes to GSE debt - watch for potential downgrades early this week. But, looking out the window, it appears that the sun is coming up - and this week's FOMC meeting will definitely have something to discuss. (More on this down several paragraphs.)

Fannie Mae reported a $2.9 billion second-quarter loss and said it would seek $5.1 billion in Treasury Department aid to balance its books since it has a net worth deficit of $5.1 billion for the three-month period that ended June 30. The loss, which compares with a $1.2 billion loss a year earlier, was mostly a result of credit-related expenses on home loans made before the 2008 financial collapse. Fannie Mae also made a $2.3 billion payment to the Treasury in the second quarter. As of the second quarter, Fannie Mae has drawn $104.8 billion in Treasury aid and paid $14.7 billion in dividends, the company reported. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together have drawn about $170 billion in taxpayer aid.

(Fannie & Freddie are not the only Federal agencies/departments in the hot seat. The U.S. Postal Service posted a net loss of $3.1 billion in its third quarter, and a loss of $5.7billion in the nine month period, and warned again it would default on payments to the federal government if Congress did not step in. Total mail volume for the quarter that ended June 30 fell to 39.8 billion pieces, a 2.6 percent drop from the same period a year earlier, as consumers turn to email and pay bills online. The postal service does not receive taxpayer funds, and next month is facing a $5.5 billion mandated retiree health benefit prepayment - and with Congress in recess until September...)

Bank of America's stock was hit late last week after telling investors that claims from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may cost more than previously forecast. The buyback claims have analysts saying that the $30 billion of expenses booked may not be enough to clean up the faulty mortgages. F&F can request a buyback from a seller if a mortgage insurer denies coverage for a loan, even when the lender disputes the insurer's decision, and companies currently have three months after being denied coverage to appeal the repurchase demand and will have just 30 days starting in July 2012. For more details go to BloombergBofA.

But there are still definitely jobs out there. For example, National Residential, based in Phoenix, is searching for a Secondary Marketing Manager to assist the Director of Capital Markets in hedging and managing the rate risk of the mortgage pipeline as well as assisting in the product development efforts of the company.   National Residential is a retail lender owned by Heartland Financial, a bank holding company, with operations primarily in the Midwest and the West, with recent mortgage banking expansions into Southern California, Reno, and Austin, Texas. Previous experience with the trading and forming of MBS and/or GNMA pools is required. Previous experience with the use of QRM is preferred but not critical. The ideal candidate can review reports to validate exposure and coverage reasonableness, communicate new MBS trades to Finance, review trade confirmation received from counterparty, enter trade information, reconcile and communicate hedge pair-off trades to counterparty and finance department, maintain, run and distribute daily hedge position reports and monthly mark-to-market reports, allocate loans, form pools, and so on. For more information contact Sandy Roe at sroe@natresdirect.com.

It is an interesting time for mortgage banks. David Fleig from Financial Analysis Partners writes, "Could the mortgage industry could be headed for a wave of deconsolidation which would favor well capitalized and managed privately held mortgage companies? The marginal players in the residential mortgage banking industry have been forced out of the business, and the surviving companies have increased their market share and improved their margins, posting excellent if not record profitability beginning in 2009. During this period, minimum capital and liquidity standards have been increased by the Agencies and the warehouse lending community, which is causing many of the smaller survivors to consider a merger or being acquired by the larger players. The best run privately held companies are poised to take advantage of future opportunities but will require capital for such acquisitions and to fund other growth opportunities, most notably retaining servicing rights (which some believe is tremendously compelling now for the first time in decades)."

David continues, "Capital is generally not currently available through bank loans or from Wall Street, providing private lenders with a unique opportunity to fill this credit gap. Financial Analysis Partners is in the process of launching a private equity fund to be known as Residential Mortgage Capital Partners I, LP. The Fund intends to make mezzanine investments, primarily subordinated debt, in carefully selected mortgage companies with high integrity management teams and solid operating histories. Anticipated criteria for portfolio companies includes a consistent earnings history and solid per loan profitability, a strong management team and minimum net worth of about $5 million. The Fund's investment should represent a classic "win-win" transaction because target portfolio companies will have the demonstrated ability to generate an ROE in excess of the coupon on the Fund's securities, creating an earnings arbitrage opportunity. The Manager intends to assist portfolio companies with their strategic planning with the objective of maximizing future enterprise value." If you'd like more information contact David at dfleig@financialanalysispartners.com.

Over in Washington, Bank of Whitman was shut down by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, and the FDIC tapped Columbia State Bank in Tacoma to assume all of the deposits. The same happened up in Illinois, where Bank of Shorewood was shuttered and Heartland Bank and Trust Company took over the deposits.

At some point it comes back to our economy, and continued worries about jobs and housing. Feeble job growth and rising unemployment don't help the housing market, and in turn construction or distributing distressed properties. For example, California has significantly reduced its backlog of foreclosures, while Florida has not. This will dictate the speed with which these housing markets return to normal. The home price-to-rent ratio has slipped just below one, which means rents are now slightly expensive to home prices on a national basis.

Job-wise, recent labor market trends have raised concerns that the unemployment rate is high not because employers are reluctant to hire but because they are unable to hire. These concerns, if true, would cast doubt on using monetary policy to stimulate the labor market, since it works by encouraging firms to hire more. ChicagoFed  

The press, Wall Street firms, and overseas investors have been jawboning over the S&P downgrade. (Even I wrote about it, suggesting that it is more of a political move than financial: S&PDowngrade.) So here we are - stocks are down again (but they were down before) and the bond market is behaving itself. Markets set rates, not rating agencies, and it would seem that money if flowing into bullion and into the bond market, as many expected would happen. Perhaps the United States really is still viewed as a safe haven for money - after all, few markets match the depth and liquidity of the Treasury market, which has $9.3 trillion in debt outstanding. That being said, keep in mind other debt tied to Treasury rates, and risk quality, may be downgraded soon, which may lead to higher rates - a ripple effect.

Going back to Friday, the Nonfarm Payrolls report surprised to the upside with +117k jobs created in July versus a call for +85k. In addition, May and June were revised upward by a total 56k jobs. The thought of the economy picking up pushed rates higher, and the 10-yr closed at 2.56%, and mortgage banker selling picked up to a daily average of $1.9 billion - almost all in 4% coupons, compared to a daily average last week of $1.3 billion. MBS volume was higher as well to a 155% average this week from 131% previously, based on Tradeweb's experience.

For news this week, it is a very light week for scheduled news. There is nothing today or tomorrow. Wednesday we have mortgage apps (which doesn't move rates, rates move that number), on Thursday we have some trade numbers and Jobless Claims, and on Friday we have Retail Sales, a Michigan Consumer Sentiment number, and Business Inventories. But we also have Tuesday's FOMC meeting and a $32 billion 3-yr note auction (Tues), $24 billion 10-yr auction (Wed), and a $16 billion 30-yr bond auction Thursday. This morning we find the stock market taking it on the chin, but the 10-yr back down to 2.48% and MBS prices are better by roughly .250.

(A quick note about Friday's Ben Bernanke story link: the story was a satire, and not true - my apologies to anyone who may have thought otherwise.)

A married man was having an affair with his secretary.
One day they went to her place and made love all afternoon.
Exhausted, they fell asleep and woke up at 8 PM.
The man hurriedly dressed and told his lover to take his shoes outside and rub them in the grass and dirt.
He put on his shoes and drove home.
"Where have you been?" his wife demanded.
"I can't lie to you," he replied, 'I'm having an affair with my secretary. We had sex all afternoon."
She looked down at his shoes and said, "You liar! You've been playing golf!"