A start-of-the week roundup for everyone, so as always, feel free jump off where you're interested most ... What's mine is yours: Regular HW readers know that I'm about to embark on running this site full time (just a few more days and I'll be free of the current day job). Before this thing really gets rolling, however, I want to ask you to take a few minutes and participate in HW's reader survey for 2008. Your input will help shape this site's direction for the year, and is an important part of taking what you see here to the next level. The survey runs for the next week. Thanks to the 800+ that have already responded -- your input is very much appreciated. Staring at 75?: Calculated Risk reports that, according to data provided by the Cleveland Fed, a 75 basis point reduction in the Federal Funds target rate is becoming more and more likely on January 30. A 50bps cut appears to be in the bag. Chevy Chase, out of wholesale?: Matthew Padilla seems to back up industry rumors that have said Chevy Chase Bank will exit the wholesale lending channel:
I have called a few of the executives and sales staff listed on the web site of the whole sale division and no one is answering. One voice mail said the division stopped funding loans today.
For those wondering, Chevy Chase had a particular predeliction for option ARM origination during the housing boom; given the news today out of Downey Financial -- another option ARM specialist -- I don't think it takes an industry insider to figure out where Chevy Chase's pain points are right now. Enough blame to go around: Felix Salmon over at Portfolio.com weighs in on the inanity of two economists trying to discuss mortgage banking -- at issue is so-called "predatory borrowing," which means that borrowers are every bit as guilty for their predicament as the lenders they're now trying to sue, have others sue, or have legislators bill-ify into oblivion (to bill-ify: to introduce so much new legislation that an industry comes to a standstill). Salmon makes an interesting point, one that's often been lost in the 'naughty, naughty lender' rhetoric:
... most subprime lending was not predatory. In many cases where a genuinely subprime borrower took out a mortgage on a house he couldn't afford with little or no money down, it is the borrower who is coming out ahead: consuming much more in the way of housing services than he will end up paying for. The lender, meanwhile, gets left with an enormous loss - which is not what normally happens in cases of predatory lending.
Not to mention cities suing them for making the loans they're already losing money on (I'm looking at you, Cleveland and Baltimore). New Mexico takes on title insurers: In a news bit that's so far been overlooked, New Mexico is out for its pound of flesh from title insurers, with AG Gary King filing a pleading on Jan. 4 before the New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance urging an 11.4 percent reduction in overall title insurance rates. From a press release on the matter:
It is the position of the Attorney General that title insurance companies have no real incentive to compete on prices charged to consumers and therefore, insurance underwriters market their services to agents rather than to homeowners. “This creates fertile ground for the possibility of inflated expenses, negatively affecting the rate charged to the consumer,� says AG King. “In fact, we think the current system has created reverse competition which is definitely not in the best interests of New Mexico homeowners.�
Not nearly as high-profile as California's battle, but noteworthy nonetheless. Did you know? You probably did: Bloomberg reports the not-exactly-Earth-shattering news that Goldman Sachs has been short on U.S. subprime mortgages for the balance of 2007. That's not news; what's news is where Goldman sits now. I'm told it's still short, but will update HW readers if/when I hear anything different. Scatterbrained: Via Mortgage News Clips, Tom Millon at Capital Markets Cooperative cites a schitzophrenic whole loan trade:
Servicing prices have moved in to two camps: a high-priced one that believes the record slowdown in prepayment speeds is here to stay, and a relatively low-priced one that believes speeds will accelerate soon. Prices for conforming whole loans, therefore, are as widely scattered as we have seen in some time.
It's worth noting that Millon is quoting an unnamed trader, so the above isn't his take, but the above read on pricing surprisingly doesn't consider credit risk: proof, I guess, that old habits still die hard.