Morning Report – Disparate Impact 02/08/13

Vital Statistics:

  Last Change Percent
S&P Futures  1511.8 -0.6 -0.04%
Eurostoxx Index 2626.5 -3.8 -0.14%
Oil (WTI) 95.4 -0.3 -0.33%
LIBOR 0.293 0.001 0.38%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 80.4 0.151 0.19%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.95% 0.00%  
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 193.2 -0.1  

Markets are flattish on no real news. Most of Asia was closed overnight for the lunar new year.  The G7 is expected to make a statement against competitive devaluation.  There is no economic data this morning, but many will be looking at tomorrow’s retail sales report to get a gauge on how much consumers have been affected by the increase in taxes.  Bonds and MBS are flat.

The internal debate at the Fed concerns how to start extricating itself from the market. As QE winds down, the Fed wants to prevent the market from getting ahead of it and prematurely slowing down the economy. The fear is that the market will interpret the end of QE as a signal that the end of ZIRP is imminent. Since the Fed has given numerical targets for the end of ZIRP, this fear is probably overblown, but targets can be changed. That said, if you look at the float numbers, the Fed has effectively cornered the market in 10 to 20 year bonds. And they have the buying power to maintain it.  The exit may involve simply holding the paper and letting it mature.

HUD just made it easier to prove discrimination cases.  Under the disparate impact rule, statistical proof that your lending mix is different that the population as a whole means you are guilty of discrimination, no matter what your policy or intention is.  Period. Obviously this is a huge victory for affordable housing advocates. The Mortgage Bankers Association is unhappy. IMO, this whole debate of FICO explaining everything misses the point that collateral valuation volatility in some neighborhoods is higher than in others.  Since the borrower is effectively long a put (if the house drops below the loan amount, they can toss the keys to the bank), and the value of a put is a function of volatility, then that has to be priced in the loan. And if house prices are more volatile in Detroit, or Harrisburg, or Newark then loans there should cost more to reflect that.  Which means FICO is not the whole story, contrary to what housing advocates insist.

45 Democrats sent a letter calling on President Obama to permanently replace Acting FHFA Director Ed DeMarco with someone more “willing to implement all of Congress’ directives to meet the critical challenges still facing our nation’s housing finance markets.”  This statement means willing to forgive principal on Freddie and Fannie loans. The mandate to put taxpayers first is at loggerheads with the desire to ease the financial burden on consumers. 

Separately, the White House is considering more mortgage relief for homeowners through executive order. The plan would allow underwater homeowners who are current on their mortgage to refinance at today’s rates, even if their loans are private label.   

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