The Credit Risk Transfer (CRT) market was launched in 2013 by the GSE’s to help protect taxpayers from credit risk (risk of borrower nonpayment) by sharing mortgage losses with private investors. The market has grown substantially since that time, with the outstanding balance of reference loans reaching over $2 trillion at the end of 2019. Over this time, investors have largely been rewarded, as home prices have continued to rise and labor market conditions have been robust. Chart 1 shows these for the sixteen most recent high loan-to-value (LTV) Fannie Mae deals from their CRT program Connecticut Avenue Securities (CAS).
1. Cumulative Default Rate for CAS Securities
As US society goes deeper into “Shelter in Place” and “Social Distancing” to protect itself from the COVID-19 virus, jobs are being lost at a rapid pace. Jobless claims in the United States for the week ending March 21 came in at a record high 3.28 million. In turn, household finances are being stretched around the country. Fiscal stimulus and various debt forbearance plans can help to mitigate the damage, but families will have to make decisions about how to allocate scarce resources based on their own priorities.
The onset of the COVID-19 virus has resulted in tremendous volatility in financial markets. The 10-year Treasury yield plunged from 1.9% at the beginning of 2020 to a record low near 0.5% in early March but has since rebounded to near 1.1% at present. The drop in Treasury yields has not been matched by a similar decline in mortgage rates. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate released by Freddie Mac on March 19 came in at 3.65%, just 0.07% below the level attained at the beginning of the year.
All issues have taken a back seat to the onset of the Covid-19 virus. Since this first arose in China at the end of 2019, concern has steadily mounted, leading to unprecedented dislocations in global financial markets. Markets are volatile to a great degree because of uncertainty, not just about the extent and severity of the virus, but also about its economic impact.
In the wake of the economic dislocation that occurred with the onset of the Global Financial Crisis, (GFC), central banks responded with a variety of policy innovations, including Large-Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP’s), also known as Quantitative Easing (QE). Different central banks have implemented these programs in distinct ways, but the Federal Reserve purchased massive amounts of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to place downward pressure on long-term interest rates. (Chart 1)