By Rick Mills, Ahead of the Herd
As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information
Overheated US housing prices started dropping in 2006. Homeowners were going underwater (they owed more than the house was worth) and many had questionable credit ? "fog the mirror loans" were common, if you breathed you got a loan. *Banks sold these mortgages to agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They bundled the mortgages with other loans bearing similar interest rates and then sold them as Mortgage-backed securities (MBS), so called because their value was backed or secured by the value of the underlying mortgages.
An MBS is therefore a derivative because its value is derived from the underlying asset - the mortgage that was often underwater and held by someone with bad credit.
*The Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group, a state-federal task force created by President Obama, just announced their first legal action.
"Co-chair, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has filed a Martin Act lawsuit against J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A., and EMC Mortgage LLC for making fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions to promote the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to investors. According to Attorney General Schneiderman's lawsuit, these defendants deceived investors as to the care with which they evaluated the quality of mortgage loans packaged into residential mortgage-backed securities prior to Bear Stearns & Co's collapse in early 2008, incurring losses that have totaled approximately 22.5 billion to date." MENAFN.com
The Federal Reserve started easing monetary policy aggressively throughout 2008. By December of 2008, the federal funds rate was between 0 and 1/4 percent.Additional stimulus was injected by expanding the holdings of longer term securities. The System Open Market Account (SOMA) purchased mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae (agency MBS).
"On numerous occasions in 2008 and 2009, the Federal Reserve Board invoked emergency authority under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to authorize new broad-based programs and financial assistance to individual institutions to stabilize financial markets. Loans outstanding for the emergency programs peaked at more than $1 trillion in late 2008." Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Broad Based Programs
The Term Auction Facility was $40 billion in loans to rescue the banks. It wasn't near enough, the Treasury department got authorization to spend $150 billion more to subsidize and eventually take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they also bailed out AIG.
Dollar Swap Lines exchanged dollars with foreign central banks for foreign currency to help address disruptions in dollar funding markets abroad.
The Term Securities Lending Facility auctioned loans of U.S. Treasury securities to primary dealers against eligible collateral.
The Primary Dealer Credit Facility provided overnight cash loans to primary dealers against eligible collateral.
The Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility provided loans to depository institutions and their affiliates to finance purchases of eligible asset-backed commercial paper from money market mutual funds.
TheCommercial Paper Funding Facility provided loans to a special purpose vehicle to finance purchases of new issues of asset-backed commercial paper and unsecured commercial paper from eligible issuers.
The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility supported the issuance of asset-backed securities (ABS) collateralized by loans related to autos, credit cards, education, and small businesses. In March 2009, the Fed announced that it was expanding the scope of the TALF program to allow loans against additional types of collateral.
Late in 2008 there was a run on ultra safe money market accounts ? according to AMG Data Services a record $140 billion was pulled out in one day.
The Troubled Asset Recovery Program was proposed and $350 billion was approved by Congress ? the money was used to buy bank and automotive stocks.
In response to the crisis and a stalling economy the US Federal Reserve initiated Quantitative Easing and Operation Twist.
The initial Fed response to the subprime mortgage crisis was to lower interest rates, then, having no traditional tools left in its toolbox the Fed introduced a new policy - quantitative easing (QE).
In September of 2008 the $1.7 trillion QE1 was started. The Fed purchased mostly mortgage backed securities and established a commercial paper lending facility. In October of 2010 QE2 started. At $600 billion, QE2 was much smaller then QE1 and its buying was mostly confined to purchasing long term government bonds.
QE1 & QE2 failed to restart the economy and housing market.
Operation Twist is the Fed's initiative of buying longer-term Treasuries while simultaneously selling shorter-dated issues in order to bring down long-term interest rates.
By purchasing longer-term bonds, the Fed drives up prices which forces yields down - price and yield move in opposite directions. Selling shorter-term bonds causes their yields to go up because their prices fall. These two actions "twist" the shape of the yield curve, hence the name Operation Twist.
Quantitative Easing Three, QE3
The Federal Reserve has just launched QE3. Key components are:
- The creation of $40 billion a month to buy MBS's
- The continuation of Operation Twist #2
- An open-ended commitment to keep purchasing securities at whatever level is judged necessary until the labor market improves "substantially"
- An extension of the 0.0% to 0.25% target range for the Fed Funds rate until at least mid 2015
The definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
"The Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. These actions should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate..." Federal Reserve
"We will be looking for the sort of broad-based growth in jobs and economic activity that generally signal sustained improvement in labor market conditions and declining unemployment."