Mortgage Market Round Up
There are a few stories percolating on my "to-do" list -- as you probably know, there is plenty to cover right about now -- so I'm going to take you on a tour of what's out there. Jump off wherever you feel interested ... Brokers being blacklisted?: Hey, it could happen -- take a look at this post by Mathew Padilla over at the Mortgage Insider. In it, Padilla cites an interview with an EVP in Wells Fargo's Home Mortgage unit, who says point blank that consumers will be getting a better deal retail on jumbo mortgages from Wells versus if they go through a broker. (Side note: must be nice to get paid to do interviews like that.) Correspondent lending is pretty much dead at this point, from what I'm hearing, so does this mean wholesale is falling out of favor now, too? Countrywide downgraded: Countrywide's shares took a hit today as a Merrill Lynch analyst reduced a rating on the nation's largest mortgage operation, moving Countrywide to "sell." The rating came two days after the same analyst rated the stock "buy" -- which either means the analyst in question has just figured out something he didn't know two days before, or he's doing the analyst thing. You know, making sure he wasn't the one saying the sky is blue, just in case the sky really is falling. The same analyst used the word "bankruptcy" is his analysis as well, something that has flooded my inbox today with solicitations from PR firms -- all wanting to offer up a different expert to discuss where Countrywide is headed. (I'm flattered, guys. If I could find the time, I'd love to take everyone up on their offer and write a story summarizing where key market participants see the industry bellwether headed next. We'll see -- I'm not a blogger at the OC Register, which means I don't get paid to do this work. Yet.) Commercial paper hit by mortgage crisis: The mortgage meltdown moved to an affiliate of KKR today, which the WSJ reports "sought to delay payment of $5 billion in short-term debt held by 15 money-market funds." Of course, this is dimming the prospect of a KKR IPO in the near future. Tanta over at CR said this morning she's not cashing out her money market and running for the hills just yet, but something tells me that the KKR story may have her at least starting to rethink that strategy. More subprime hedge fund losses: The WSJ also reports on a Basis Capital fund that is facing huge losses from subprime mortgage investments gone bad. The company's Yield Alpha Fund may absorb losses exceeding 80 percent, according to the report. Impac goes on the offensive: Impac's CEO, taking a cue from fellow Thornburg CEO Garrett Thornburg, came out today with a similar message that said the company will not file bankruptcy. Something tells me other CEOs will be making the rounds to similar effect, getting on the offensive and proclaiming their plans to fight through the current market. I'm not so sure it really means anything. Mortgage (Re)applications Up: The MBA said mortgage applications increased 3.4 percent last week, a number that I have to question due to re-application activity among borrowers, along with fellow bloggers. As borrowers find they can't get the original mortgage they applied for, many are having to reapply -- something that undoubtedly is inflating the MBA's numbers. Someone's going to make money - but who?: NMN expat Rick Grant weighs in on Thornburg's efforts to fight back -- I share his assessment that this is one company that absolutely deserves to survive the current mess -- and says that someone's going to make a ton of money when the dust settles. (Now if we could just get Rick to blog a little more often; he's probably too busy actually making money with his day job.) Keith Gregory - another former NMN expat - weighs in on the current crisis, saying Wall Street should bear the burden of blame and proposes some ideas on a bailout -- I will say that I personally don't think a bailout is in anyone's best interests. Least of all for Wall Street investors, for whom a bailout would establish a moral hazard (I particularly liked an op-ed piece over at Investor's Business Daily today about this). Perhaps the most interesting idea, however, is this one. Coming from default management, I'll likely be blogging on this idea at some point in the near future. Cramer might need meds after this: Bloomberg is reporting that the Fed's Poole is standing by his earlier assessment and saying that the "real economy" is unhurt by the mortgage crisis. Last but certainly not least ... : I've received numerous emails today from people claiming to have been laid off from a very large subprime lender's retail offices in three different locations. I can't disclose whom, since I haven't been able to verify if any layoffs actually did take place at the company in question, and/or if the layoffs signal any other difficulties. If I missed something, let me know.