Regulatory Arbitrage Infinity! Law Limiting CEO Pay To $600,000 At Fannie and Freddie Easily Skirted Since Presidents Are Not Subject To Law

US Senator Elizabeth Warren probably thinks that the T-Rexs and Raptors in Jurassic Park can be regulated or contained. Just like she thinks that G-SIBS can be regulated without causing harm to the economy. But life finds a way.

Quicken Loans (and Rocket Mortgage) are examples of financial institutions that escape  regulation by remaining a privatley-held corporations. But there are zads of ways to avoid regulations imposed on  financial institutions.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to make sure top executives at mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not being paid more than a congressionally-mandated salary cap allows.

An example of bypassing the regulatory swamp? Regulations prohibit Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac CEOs from making more than $600,000 per year. 

In a recently unveiled proposal – called the Respect the Caps Act – Warren is looking to close a loophole both agencies are said to be taking advantage of in order to pay their top executives millions.

Warren’s legislation was developed in response to a watchdog report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Inspector General. According to the report, the FHFA – which oversees Fannie and Freddie – approved plans that circumvented the congressionally-mandated salary cap at the two agencies, which is set at $600,000. This was said to be done by separating the CEO and president roles, transferring tasks from the CEO to the president, and raising the president’s pay. Presidents are not subject to the pay cap.

As a result, two executives at Fannie were said to be paid $4.2 million to perform the same tasks a CEO has performed for $600,000. At Freddie, the figure was $3.85 million.

“Following the financial crisis, Congress passed my bipartisan bill to cap pay raises for executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Instead of enforcing the law, the FHFA has allowed executive compensation at Fannie to increase by $3.6 million and at Freddie, by $3.25 million,” Warren said in a press release.

If the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency – a post that Mark Calabria was just confirmed to – were to approve salaries that exceeded the $600,000 cap, he could be removed according to the terms of the bill.

The cap was put in place in 2015 after the former FHFA director sought to allow executives to receive a hefty, multimillion dollar pay package.

The former FHFA diector was … Mel Watt/

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Bring Out Your Fed! Existing Home Sales Fall -5.44% YoY In March (EHS Inventory Lowest Since 1999)

Bring out your Fed!

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing home sales tanked -5.44% YoY in March.

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At the same time, the INVENTORY of existing home sales rose in March, but still remains near its lowest level since 1999.

Existing home sales Median Price YoY has slowed to 3.8% with The Fed’s quantitative tightening (QT). As opposed to 13.4% YoY during The Fed’s QE3.

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Time to bring out your Fed!

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Financialization And New York City Rents (Rent Bubble????)

Financialization refers to the increase in size and importance of a country’s financial sector relative to its overall economy.  And the center of US financialization is … New York City with its investment banks like Goldman Sachs.

While west coast housing prices are cooling (but still uber-expensive on the coast). NYC rents are still hot.

Rents climbed to a first-quarter record in Manhattan, and to all-time highs in Brooklyn and Queens, data from StreetEasy show. At the same time, purchases declined and almost a fifth of home-sellers in the three boroughs were forced to cut their prices.

Many New Yorkers, weary of bargaining with owners whose list prices are still out of touch with a slowing market, are choosing to remain renters until they find the perfect deal. That’s given landlords power to raise rates and offer fewer lease sweeteners, said Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy.

Central Park South was Manhattan’s costliest neighborhood in the first quarter, with a median asking rent of $7,200. Landlords sought $3,785 in Greenwich Village, $3,995 in Chelsea and $2,900 on the Upper East Side. Borough-wide, rents rose 2.6 percent from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase since 2016, according to a StreetEasy index.

Owners listed apartments for a median of $3,035 in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, and $2,995 in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg.

The Flatiron district is no slouch at $4,615 median rent. This trendy area has numerous millionaires and billionaires (as Bernie Sanders loves to say).

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But since the advent of financialization in the 1980s, the wealth distribution in the US has become the most skewed since the 1930s.

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And much of the skew is about the consolidation of financial power in New York City (and regulation of the 0.1% resides in Washington DC.

Yes, The Federal Reserve, the hell hound for Wall Street, has helped inflate asset bubbles and keep them frothy, benefitting the 0.1%.

At the national level, home price growth YoY, while slowing, still exceeds average hourly earnings for the majority of US workers as well as core inflation.

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So, are we in a housing bubble? Previously, “economists” have said that a housing bubble is when home price growth exceeds wage growth. But when I speak to the Five Star Government forum on housing on Tuesday, I will be the only one that says the word “bubble.”

Mentioning a bubble in the 5 Star gathering is like including Carolina Reaper 2,200,000 SHU peppers in the spice mix.

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US And China Credit Impulses Are Negative (Annual Change As % Of GDP), Along With The Eurozone

The bad news? The credit impulses (annual change as a percentage of GDP) for both the USA and China are negative.

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The good news? The decline in China’s credit impulse is lessening.

If we throw the Eurozone into the Papusa, we see that the Eurozone has negative credit impuse growth, but is better than China or the USA.

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Since 2005, China’s sovereign yield curve has actually increased will Japan’s has dropped into negative territory.

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Blitzkrieg Bop! US Mortgage Rate Fall As Economic Barbell Stresses US Rates (Treasury Volatility Curve Sends Disturbing Message)

US home buyers are benefitting from European economic misery (particularly Germany and fiscal-stressed Italy). I call this the Blitzkrieg Bop.

On the other side of the interest rate barbell is China (and Japan). So while the USA is growing, Germany and Japan are not doing so well, causing their Central Banks to push rates to zero .,.. or lower. Even China’s Central Bank is buying everything in sight in fear of a recession.

Hence, US mortgage lenders and potential homebuyers benefit is terms of dropping interest rates.

You can see the downward plunge in the Treasury Volatility Curve (MOVE – TYVIX) as Central Banks become active in 2008 and 2009. The 30-year mortgage rate has been declining thanks to hyper-intrusion of global central banks, killing off bond volatility.

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Allegedly, The Federal Reserve is ceasing its raising of their target rate and will stop shrinking their balance sheet in September.

Mortgage purchase applications (NSA) are in their third phase and doing quite nicely, helped along recently by the barbell slowdowns overseas.

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Speculators Increase Short Treasury Futures Position (But Gold LONG Positions Increase)

Speculators are increasinng Treasury short positions while speculators are favoring long positions in gold futures.
Speculators increased net short positioning throughout the Treasury futures curve in the week ended April 9. The bulk of the moves came from adding short positions in 10-year (TY) Treasury futures contracts. They increased their short position in TY contracts by $56,982. And they added some short risk to their two-year (TU) futures positions, after nearly cutting that position in half the previous week.

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Speculators also increased their short positions in five-year (FV), ultralong (WN) and classic 30-year (US). Speculators still remain short every Treasury futures contract.

How about gold? The net futures have actually increased since December.

 

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Wipeout! Hidden Bond Market Dangers Expose Traders to $2 Trillion Wipeout

Wipeout! 

(Bloomberg) — Behind the rally in global debt markets lurks a disaster just waiting to happen. At least, that’s what some long-time market watchers are warning.

While dovish comments by the Federal Reserve and other central banks have prompted investors to pile back into bonds, two troubling developments could make buyers uniquely vulnerable to deep and painful losses, they say. One is the sheer amount of ultra-low yielding debt, which means investors have almost no buffer in the event prices drop. That’s compounded by the worry liquidity will suddenly evaporate in a selloff and leave holders stuck with losses on positions they can’t get out of quickly.

Granted, nobody is actually predicting when things will turn ugly in the bond market, and history hasn’t been particularly kind to the doomsayers. Still, the risk is real, they say, and caution is more than justified. By one measure, the amount of investment-grade bonds has doubled to $52 trillion since the financial crisis. And yields have, on average, fallen to roughly 1.8 percent, less than half the level in 2007. If they were to rise by a mere half-percentage point, investors could be looking at almost $2 trillion in losses.

“This is an element of hidden leverage that is not appreciated,” says Jeffrey Snider, global head of research at Alhambra Investments. “We are eventually going to have a shock.”

The current situation is a legacy of the easy-money polices enacted by central banks following the financial crisis. With interest rates at or near zero, governments and corporations went on a historic borrowing binge — and investors gorged on debt that yielded little in return. What’s more, rules to strengthen financial firms and curb their risk-taking meant the big banks now played a much smaller role as intermediaries, transferring more of the risk of getting in and out of trades onto investors.

Using the US Treasury 10-year (yellow) and 3-year Treasury (green) yields, here is a chart of global Treasury modified duration (white).

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Yes, the pounding of global interest rates downwards thanks to Central Bank “easing” has created a potential duration. wipeout.

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And the short-term Central Bank rate hammer is helping to keep global rate depressed, leading to higher duration risk.

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Yes, the Central Banks DID do that!

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Fixing The Holes? G-SIB House Hearing For CEOs Of Citi, Wells, BofA, Goldman, MS, JPMC, Etc. But Where Are Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac?

Today’s hearing in the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee (where the committee calls Globally-Systemically Important Bank (G-SIB) CEOs to testify and ask them uncomfortable questions).

But today’s hearing should have been extended to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that unquestionably qualify as Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs), both under the statutory and FSOC definitions, and in any objective assessment of their financial importance. Are they G-SIBs? Of course.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are supposed to maintain capital. Congress, in enacting the Safety and Soundness Act in 1992, established minimum capital requirements for the Enterprises and those standards have been in place for the past 25+ years. That Act requires the Enterprises to maintain minimum capital that is greater than or equal to:

  • 2.5 percent of on-balance sheet assets, which include mortgage-backed securities (MBS), mortgage loans, and other investments the Enterprises hold in their respective investment portfolios;
  • 0.45 percent of the unpaid principal balance of outstanding MBS not included in on- balance sheet assets, which include MBS the Enterprises issue and guarantee, but do not own and hold in their investment portfolios; and
  • 0.45 percent of “other off-balance sheet obligations.”

Well, the required capital for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac clearly did not protect their shareholders from a catastrophic failure in 2008 due to declining home prices and a surge in mortgage delinquencies.

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In fairness, Fannie and Freddie are not depository institutions. But the sheer size of their loan portolios is worrisome.

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Whether you want to call Fannie and Freddie SIFIs or G-SIBs, they should have been called to testify as well.

Regulation of G-SIBs

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, all depository institutions with more than $10 billion in assets, including the U.S. G-SIBs, are supervised by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for compliance with consumer financial protection laws and regulations. Furthermore, the Dodd-Frank Act subjects the largest banks, including the U.S. G-SIBs, to heightened oversight and enhanced prudential standards to safeguard the U.S. financial system, which are implemented by the Federal Reserve. These requirements include enhanced capital, liquidity and leverage requirements, as well as regular stress testing to ensure banks hold enough capital to survive a future economic downturn or financial crisis. The G-SIBs are also required to submit resolution plans (also referred to as “living wills”) to ensure their firms can be resolved in an orderly way if they were to fail.

There have been several deregulatory developments and proposals in recent years. For example, S.2155, which was signed into law in May 2018 (Public Law 115-174), reduces the frequency of G-SIB stress tests, and it reduces other capital and leverage requirements. In addition, regulators have been advancing their own proposals. In April 2018, the Federal Reserve issued a set of proposals to simplify its capital rules for G-SIBs and introduced a “stress capital buffer,” or SCB, which would in part integrate the forward-looking stress test results with the Board’s non-stress capital requirements. The Federal Reserve joined the OCC in releasing a second proposal to substantially revise the current enhanced supplementary leverage ratio (eSLR) that applies to G-SIBs. After the proposal was released, former FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said, “Strengthening leverage capital requirements for the largest, most systemically important banks in the United States was among the most important post crisis reforms…the amount of tier 1 capital required under the proposed eSLR standard across the lead IDI subsidiaries would be approximately $121 billion less than what is required under the current eSLR standard to be considered well-capitalized” (emphasis added). In response to a request from Committee staff for more information, the FDIC estimated the eSLR proposal would lower capital requirements for the primary federally-insured bank subsidiary of each G-SIB as follows:

● JPMorgan Chase & Co.: $34.597 billion (20.83% reduction in tier 1 capital) ● Citigroup: $26.978 billion (23.3% reduction)
● Bank of America: $22.838 billion (18.5% reduction)
● Wells Fargo: $20.406 billion (16.9% reduction)
● Bank of New York Mellon: $5.911 billion (33.65% reduction)

● State Street: $5.346 billion (37.5% reduction)
● Morgan Stanley: $2.507 billion (25% reduction)
● Goldman Sachs: $1.93 billion (9.49% reduction)

Despite proposing to reduce capital for the G-SIBs, the Federal Reserve’s own research has indicated current capital requirements are on the lower end of requirements that best balances benefits associated with mitigating systemic risk with a bank’s funding costs. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve has also been working on making stress testing more transparent to banks, potentially undermining the value of the regular exercise. Bank regulators have also proposed reducing enhanced prudential standards and liquidity requirements for banks as large as $700 billion, and there have been reports that regulators may reconsider their proposal on the Volcker Rule and propose further rollbacks of Dodd-Frank reforms.

Finally, while the Dodd-Frank Act and related reforms required additional capital and strengthened oversight of G-SIBs through the creation of the Consumer Bureau, there remain concerns regarding whether some of these institutions are adequately being held accountable for repeated consumer violations, and whether these firms may be too big to manage, as was discussed at the Committee’s hearing on March 12, 2019, with Wells Fargo’s former CEO, Tim Sloan.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator is proposing that the mortgage-finance giants have a combined capital buffer of as much as $180.9 billion should the companies be released from government control.

I would really like to hear what new-minted FHFA Director Mark Calabria has to say on capital requirements and administrative reform.  And turning Fannie and Freddie loose again in the financial system.

Hopefully Calabria will be fixing the holes in the mortgage system.

 

Refi Inferno? Residential Mortgage Refinancing Applications Jump 38.50% WoW As Mortgage Rate Decline To 4.06%

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, residential mortgage refinancings shot up 38.50% from the previous week.

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Here is the chart of mortgage refinancing applications with the mortgage rate drop to 4.06%.

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Mortgage purchase applications were more modest at +4.06% WoW despite the rapid decline in mortgage rates.

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30-year mortgage rates have been falling thanks to deterorating conditions in the EU.

Is this a refi inferno?  Or is it just a slight increase? Call it a relative inferno!

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Mortgage Investors Cool on Swaps as Rush for Duration Ends

Investors in mortgage-backed securities are cooling on swaps used to hedge against falling interest rates, signaling confidence that yields may have found their bottom.

The 10-year swap spread has backed off from the tightest level since October 2017, reached last week. The U.S. Treasury 10-year yield had touched a 15-month low of 2.37 percent on March 27.

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A U.S. homeowner may prepay their mortgage at will, and the duration of a mortgage-backed security can drop dramatically during periods of falling yields due to the potential for faster prepayments. This means MBS investors need to add duration, referred to as “convexity hedging,” as interest rates drop.

A popular method to add duration is by using swaps and “the 10-year is still the most liquid swap for mortgage hedgers,” said Walt Schmidt, head of mortgage strategies at FTN Financial. Now that the 10-year yield has risen again to the 2.50 percent area, swap spreads are back close to where they lay previous to the rally and “the wave of convexity hedging is likely over for now,” he said.

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Duration:  the weighted average maturity of the security’s cash flows, where the present values of the cash flow serve as the weights. The greater the duration of a security, the greater its percentage price volatility.

The Overnight Indexed Swap (OIS) looks like an ARCTANGENT function.

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Slippin’ Jimmy took this photo of Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s chair.

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