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Strategic Defaults Falling on Jumbo Mortgages, Relative to Smaller Loans: Moody's

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According to a weekly credit report from Moody's Investors Service, jumbo mortgage delinquencies, in this case delinquencies on mortgages over $1m, are almost equal to mortgage delinquencies for smaller mortgages. The agency monitors the risk of default across mortgages that are bundled into bonds and sold as residential mortgage-backed securitizations. America's more well-to-do, it seems, is not walking away from financial obligations at a greater rate, the rating agency finds, with alleged strategic defaults decreasing across all categories. "Our findings contradict conventional wisdom, which holds that richer borrowers are more likely than the average borrower to strategically default because of the relative size of their investment and their higher level of financial savvy," said Peter McNally, the analyst who authored the report. "The size of the loan does not appear to indicate the likelihood of a borrower walking away from an underwater mortgage." The amount of both small and jumbo mortgages that are delinquent are currently 28%. Although delinquency rates differ significantly among different loans products, jumbo mortgages matched smaller mortgages in every category (see chart). Moody's reported that the two main drivers of default are job loss and home price decline. The firm said its findings "contradict conventional wisdom" which holds that richer borrowers are more likely than the average borrower to strategically default because of the relative size of their investment and their higher level of financial savvy. "Assuming that job loss is as much of a driver of default for rich borrowers as for average borrowers, then the supposed higher propensity of large loans to strategically default should reveal itself in higher default rates for large loans," the report said. Write to Christine Ricciardi.

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