December 2, 2022

All Time Low Mortgage Rates For A++ Borrowers Only, Fed’s Efforts Futile

As discussed on December 31, 2008 many homeowners attempting to lower their mortgage rate apply for a refinance, only to discover that they do not qualify for the “low advertised rate” (Few May Benefit From Lower Mortgage Rates).

Unless a borrower has perfect credit (at least a 720 FICO score), adequate income (debt ratio of 32% or less) and substantial equity in the home (loan to value of 75% or less), the rate will be higher due to adders.  Adders are fees imposed by Fannie and Freddie if the applicant does not fit into the little box of a perfect borrower.  Adders are imposed for higher loan to value, lower credit scores and cash out refinances.  The adders can easily amount to 2% of the loan amount, or $2,000 on a $100,000 loan.   If a borrower is applying for cash out with a FICO score below 680 many lenders will turn the loan down.

This is the reality of the mortgage market today.  Many borrowers applying for a refinance with visions of a 4.875% rate and a payment reduction are finding out that they do not qualify.   There is much in the news about the “mortgage refinance boom”.   Expect to see stories in a month or two about how few borrowers actually benefited from the lower rates.

The stories of how few borrowers actually benefit from the lower rates did not take long to be noticed.

Rates Fall, But Refinancings Are Limited – Wall Street Journal

Interest rates on fixed-rate mortgage loans for prime borrowers have fallen to below 5%, the lowest level since the 1950s, triggering a wave of mortgage-loan inquiries from borrowers eager to refinance. But lenders and mortgage companies say that as many as half of the people who want to refinance can’t meet the credit hurdles and won’t get approved.

Only about a third of U.S. mortgage debt outstanding is likely to qualify for refinancing, said Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae. Nearly 70% of borrowers don’t make the cut, he said, most often because their credit isn’t good enough or they don’t have sufficient home equity. A significant number of homeowners owe more than the current value of their homes, a situation sometimes known as being “under water.” Others can’t profitably refinance, often because they hold jumbo mortgages, those above the $625,000 limit for loans that can be bought or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in the highest-cost areas.

Since December 31st when I warned that only the best borrowers would be getting approved, rates have continued to decline.  The best borrower can now obtain a par rate of 4.5%.  On an after tax basis, mortgage money  now costs around 3%.  (I remember when savings bonds used to pay 6%.)  The good news is that for those who handled their financial affairs properly, the reward is the lowest mortgage rate ever.  The bad news is that your home has crashed in value, your stock retirement account is 40% lower and your hard earned savings yield zero interest if you prefer to invest in government treasuries.   On my scoreboard, we are all losers here, regardless of lower mortgage rates.

Borrowers Who Take Cash Out On Refinances Are Not Spending The Money

Mortgage refinances being approved show a pronounced borrower preference for frugality.  Many borrowers refinancing are doing so only to lower their payments, not to take cash out.  Those taking cash are mostly paying off other high rate debt or putting the money into savings.   This is not surprising since an A+ borrower does not happen by accident – they are frugal by nature and do not run up large amount of debt for frivolous reasons.  Those most inclined to maximize cash out and immediately spend the proceeds are largely no longer qualified for loan approval, either because of income, credit or equity restrictions.

Fed’s Efforts Futile

The Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars buying mortgage backed securities to artificially suppress mortgage rates.  If the Fed’s intention was to spur more debt and spending by consumers, they have largely wasted their time and our money.   See Fed’s Asset Purchases Continue To Expand.

We Are All Keynesians Now

Do Deficits Matter?

In the short term, it may not matter what anyone thinks.  There is a near universal political consensus that spending is the only solution that will save the economy.  This consensus is backed by a long list of economic experts; the same people who in the recent past had been predicting clear skies and strong economic growth.

Will borrowing and government spending bring back happy days and prosperity?   We will not know the ending to our grand Keynesian experiment for a number of years.   What we may discovery sooner is the borrowing limits of the US Government.

In the long run, deficits do matter.

For those inclined to consider this matter further, the following links are good reads.

FOMC saw specter of depression, deflation

Minutes show members grappling with fresh approach to monetary policy

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Members of the Federal Open Market Committee at their mid-December meeting saw increasing risks of depression and deflation as they grappled with employing new tools to stabilize an economy that was rapidly weakening, according to truncated minutes of the meeting released on Tuesday.
“The overwhelming message gleaned from the minutes of the meeting is one of fear — fear of a deep recession, and fear of a debilitating deflationary spiral that would capsize a debt-laden economy,” wrote Joshua Shapiro, chief economist for MFR Inc.
Some participants at the meeting saw “the distinct possibility of a prolonged contraction, although that was not judged to be the most likely outcome,” the minutes said. Inflationary pressures were likely to dissipate, and “some members saw significant risks that inflation could decline and persist for a time at uncomfortably low levels.” Read the Fed release.

The Deficit Spending Blowout

But there’s more. None of that includes the new fiscal “stimulus” that President-elect Obama has promised to introduce upon taking office in two weeks. The details aren’t known, but Mr. Obama and Democrats have been talking about at least $800 billion, and probably $1 trillion, in new spending or various tax credits and reductions over two years. Toss that in and add more expected bailout cash, and if the economy stays slow the deficit could reach $1.8 trillion, or a gargantuan 12.5% of GDP. That 2006 Democratic vow to pass “pay as you go” budgets seems like a lifetime ago, which in political terms it was.

Obama on Stimulus: Details To Come

So, who then determines what’s an infrastructure project? The infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” was “infrastructure.” Plans were drawn up for it. Workers would have been employed to build it. What’s the difference between pork, a boondoggle and useful infrastructure?

U.S. projects the biggest deficit since World War II.  Can the country borrow its way back to prosperity?

Reasons abound for the ballooning deficit, including a 6.6% decline in tax revenues compared to 2008; more than $180 billion in transaction costs associated with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Treasury Department’s bailout fund for the U.S. economy; the $240 billion price tag of the government’s takeover of mortgage buyers Fannie Mae (nyse: FNM news people ) and Freddie Mac (nyse: FRE news people ); and increased spending on unemployment compensation.

Stimulus may spur jobs – abroad

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — President-elect Barack Obama this week proposed a massive economic stimulus program with a lofty goal amid a deep recession: create 3 million jobs.

How many of those jobs will end up in China, South Korea or other countries?

Crisis and plan to fix it unprecedented

“I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our situation,” he said. “As the economy recovers, the deficit [will] start to come down. We cannot have a solid recovery if our people and our businesses don’t have confidence that we’re getting our fiscal house in order.”

German auction fails and Britain debt hits danger level

There are fears that the next crisis in the global financial system could prove to be a rebellion by the bond vigilantes, already worried by talk of a bond bubble. This would push up rates used to fixed mortgages and corporate bond deals. Central banks can offset this for a while by purchasing bonds directly — “printing money” — but not indefinitely.

The US alone is expected to issue $2 trillion (£1.3 trillion) of debt this year, and the Europeans are not far behind. Italy alone must tap the markets for €200bn as it rolls over its huge stock of public debt and meets the cost or recession. Fitch Ratings said Ireland, Greece, the Netherlands, and France face a heavy calendar of auctions as maturities fall due.

Congress Proposes Cram-Downs As New Mortgage Solution

The plight of homeowners delinquent on their mortgages has been the focus of much debate lately.  There have generally been two major lines of thinking:

-The best course is to let free market principles apply.  If homeowners cannot afford the mortgage payment, the old fashioned remedy of foreclose should take place, turning an overburdened homeowner into a renter.

-Those more inclined to assess the loss of a home in terms of human suffering rather than as an economic equation have sought to provide relief to struggling homeowners by modifying the terms of the original mortgage.

As the number of mortgages in default grew, the situation attracted the attention of politicians.  Their viewpoint seemed to focus on helping the homeowner stay in the home, regardless of cost.

The governments’ efforts to encourage the banking industry to cure the foreclosure problem through voluntary participation in loan modifications was a failure.   For a variety of reasons the loan mods were not working.   Data from the Comptroller of the Currency shows that over 50% of modified loans re-defaulted within 6 months.  With many loan mods, payments went up for the borrowers and principal was hardly ever reduced.  The loan mods actually left many borrowers in a worse position than when they started.  In addition, most of them had negative equity before and after the loan mod.  The negative equity position locked them into the house, unable to sell or refinance.

Today, from Washington, a new solution – giving bankruptcy courts the power to alter the terms of the original mortgage.

Lawmakers Set New Mortgage Bankruptcy Bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Legislation designed to stem foreclosures by allowing bankruptcy judges to erase some mortgage debt will be introduced by Congressional Democrats on Tuesday, and hopes are high that it will pass after a similar plan failed last year.

“Economic conditions have only worsened since we last debated this plan,” said Rep. Brad Miller, a member of the House Financial Services Committee who plans to introduce a bankruptcy reform bill on Tuesday. “Until we stop the slide in foreclosures and falling home prices, the economy will get worse still.”

The legislation would change allow bankruptcy judges to modify home loans in the same way that they currently may modify other unsettled obligations, such as credit card debt.

The lending industry has said that allowing bankruptcy judges to modify mortgage obligations would change how they weigh risk. Currently a lender knows that it has recourse to foreclosure if a borrower fails to meet mortgage payments, but the lender does not have to factor in the possibility that the payments it receives could be decreased by a judge.

What will be the impact of allowing bankruptcy judges to discharge (cram-down) mortgage debts?  Some of the issues and questions to be considered include the following.

1.  Interest rates are correlated to risk – that’s the way things work in a free market.   If a mortgage loan is made with the risk of principal impairment by bankruptcy, this risk has to be priced into the loan rate.  Reducing mortgage principal by legislative fiat may bring unintended adverse consequences.

According to The Mortgage Bankers Association “It is our position that if this proposal were to become law, mortgage rates would increase by at least one and a half points. In addition, lenders will be forced to require higher down payments and charge higher costs at closing. All these increased costs would be necessary to account for the new risks that lenders will face when judges decide to change how much borrowers owe on their mortgages.”

2.  Since total mortgage delinquencies are less than 10% and not all of these cases will wind up in bankruptcy,  cram downs might help less than 5% of mortgaged homeowners.   If the MBA is correct and mortgage rates rise significantly due to cram downs, expect a significant backlash from the other 95% of mortgaged homeowners who will wind up paying for the losses through higher interest rates.

3.  According to The Housing Wire, 50% of Americans oppose bailing out troubled homeowners. “These findings indicate that there are significant political barriers to proposals now being drafted in Congress”

The bankruptcy discharge of a mortgage balance will be viewed by many as the ultimate bailout.  The final compromised bill may result in contorted regulations that ultimately benefit few homeowners.

4.  The free market has a solution for “troubled homeowners” which is known as foreclosure.  Does the free market solution lose all merit merely because the number of foreclosures increased dramatically due to imprudent borrowing and lending?

5.  According to Rep. Brad Miller, “Until we stop the slide in foreclosures and falling home prices, the economy will get worse still.”   Rep. Miller is confusing a symptom of the disease as the cause.  Falling home prices did not cause our economy to weaken.    The housing asset bubble that burst was due to reckless lending, fueled by a government providing easy credit and obsessed with making everyone a homeowner. Political interference in economic matters usually delays a solution by impeding the free market forces that will ultimately prevail anyways.

6.  If the mortgage cram down bill is passed, it will drive many homeowners to bankruptcy, lured by the promise of wiping out mortgage debt.   The loan modification program allowed the banks to pretend that the amount they were owed would still be repaid over time.  When the loan gets reduced in bankruptcy, this illusion will be gone.  More write offs by the banks could lead to a self defeating cycle of tighter credit, stricter mortgage underwriting, weaker housing prices and further bailouts.

7.  How many homeowners that are incapable of handling the burden of home ownership will be allowed to remain in their homes, only to face foreclosure again at a later date?

8.  Continued massive government support of the mortgage market will be necessary since investor demand for mortgage securities is likely to remain low due to collapsing housing prices and the risk of mortgage debt being discharged by bankruptcy. How does an investor properly price a mortgage security where the asset value underlying the security is declining and also face the risk that the principal investment may be impaired by court decree?

9.  The Fed is now expected to absorb virtually all of the new mortgage backed securities this year.   With the Fed extending its purchases into virtually every asset class, a question comes to mind.  As the Fed assumes the losses of all failing economic entities in the country, at what point does the US Government begin to share the credit quality of those being bailed out?

Fed’s Asset Purchases Continue To Expand

The $8 Trillion Dollar Bailout

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Sitting down? It’s time to tally up the federal government’s bailout tab.

There was $29 billion for Bear Stearns, $345 billion for Citigroup. The Federal Reserve put up $600 billion to guarantee money market deposits and has aggressively driven down interest rates to essentially zero.

The list goes on and on. All told, Congress, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and other agencies have taken dozens of steps to prop up the economy.

Total price tag so far: $7.2 trillion in investment and loans. That puts a lot of taxpayer money at risk. Now comes President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, some details of which were made public on Monday. The tally is getting awfully close to $8 trillion.

The amount of $8 trillion is incomprehensible to most people, including myself.   But there is an interesting way to contemplate the amount of $8 trillion dollars.  The total amount of home mortgage debt outstanding in 2008 amounted to only $10.6 trillion (see Mortgage Holiday).  If the government had simply used the $8 trillion to directly payoff consumers’ mortgage debt, all of us could have seen an 80% reduction in our mortgage payments!  Go figure.

Stop the Bankruptcy Cram Down

As Congress debates legislation to empower the Treasury to purchase troubled mortgage-related assets, some are trying to weigh the bill down with ancillary, unnecessary provisions. The one which concerns us the most is a provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to unilaterally change the terms of many mortgage loans, including the loan balance, as part of Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. By granting judges this power, this bill would throw into question the value of the collateral that backs every mortgage made in this country — the home.

The fact remains that the lending community remains united against this idea. It is our position that if this proposal were to become law, mortgage rates would increase by at least one and a half points. In addition, lenders will be forced to require higher down payments and charge higher costs at closing. All these increased costs would be necessary to account for the new risks that lenders will face when judges decide to change how much borrowers owe on their mortgages.

Interest rates are correlated to risk – that’s the way things work in a free market.   If a mortgage loan is made with the risk of principal mark downs in bankruptcy, this risk has to be priced into the loan rate.

During the bailout vote, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois argued for the right to give bankruptcy judges the ability to change the terms of a mortgage.  With the change of power in Washington, the odds of mortgage cram down legislation passing is very high.

Since total mortgage delinquencies are less than 10% and not all of these cases will wind up in bankruptcy,  cram downs might help less than 5% of mortgaged homeowners.   If the MBA is correct and mortgage rates rise significantly due to cram downs, expect a significant backlash from the other 95% of mortgaged homeowners who will wind up paying for the losses through higher interest rates.

Mortgage/Treasury Spreads Reflect Risk

Bloomberg) — Federal Reserve officials are focused on driving down the spreads between U.S. Treasury yields and consumer and corporate loans, after cutting the main interest rate to almost zero failed to revive lending.

Credit costs for households and businesses haven’t followed yields on government debt lower. Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages were at 5.06 percent last week, 2.59 percentage points above 10-year Treasury yields; the spread averaged 0.88 point in 2003, when the Fed slashed rates to 1 percent.

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke sees the thawing of frozen credit markets as critical to a recovery, and is determined to try to prevent a second wave of credit distress as the U.S. weathers bad economic news over the next two quarters. The Fed is now looking at ways to revive lending by using its balance sheet to hold loans and bonds that investors don’t want.

“Investors in general don’t want to take on the risk,” said Richard Schlanger, who helps manage $15 billion in fixed income securities at Pioneer Investments in Boston. “It is going to reach the point where the Fed will intervene again.”

If spreads between treasuries and mortgages followed the historical norm, mortgage rates on both the 15 and 30 year mortgage would be at least 1.5% points lower.   The question that is not addressed, of course, is how much higher would mortgage rates be without government price support?  Since private buyers see a poor risk/reward ratio in owning mortgages, does the government establish a permanent presence as mortgage lender of last resort?

In addition to providing price support to mortgages, we now have a Federal Reserve pledging to bring down consumer and corporate lending rates as well.   The announcement that the Fed would be buying mortgage backed securities brought down mortgage rates.  Can the Fed do the same in other debt markets by purchasing securities that free market investors view as too risky to own?

With the Fed extending its purchases into virtually every asset class, a question comes to mind.  As the Fed assumes the losses of all the failing economic entities in the country, at what point does the US Government begin to share the credit quality of those they are bailing out?

The Risk Of Higher Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates again ticked higher Friday as the treasury market continued its sell off.  Most of the good news may already be priced into the treasury market that mortgage rates are based on.

Reasons why mortgage rates may increase:

1.  As the Fed’s efforts to stabilize the credit markets succeed, frightened money is moving out on the risk curve, selling treasuries and purchasing much higher yields on corporate debt, preferred and common stock and municipals.  To the extent that the Fed is calming the credit markets, their actions are  counterproductive to lower mortgage rates.

2.  The Fed’s announcement in late November of their intention to buy half a trillion dollars of mortgage backed securities is what kicked the mortgage rate decline into high gear.  Most of this may now be fully discounted.  The actual announcement of the purchase schedule of the MBS’s did nothing to lower rates.

3.  Without the backing of conventional mortgages by the government, mortgage rates would be much higher.   This can be seen from pricing in the jumbo fixed rate mortgage market where rates are as much as 2 to 3% higher since Fannie and Freddie do not purchase or guarantee these mortgages.  Many banks effectively do not offer jumbo mortgages since there is no secondary market for them.

4.  Continued massive government support of the mortgage market will be necessary since investor demand for mortgage securities is likely to remain low due to collapsing housing prices and the risk of mortgage debt being discharged by bankruptcy and loan modifications. How can an investor properly price a mortgage security where the asset value underlying the security is declining and also face the risk that the principal investment may be impaired by court decree?

5.  The question of how much financial support the government is able to continue to provide to subsidize mortgage rates becomes important, especially as bailout demands escalate.  There are reports today that the State governors are seeking $1 trillion in bailout support as their deficits grow.  Unless the funding ability of the US Treasury is infinite, price support for mortgages may be reduced.  The Fed is now expected to absorb virtually all of the new mortgage backed securities this year.  Meanwhile, the debt of the US Government continues to explode, possibly beyond the point where the debt can ever be repaid.  This scenario implies higher rates on all government backed debt.

Many investors expect the eventual outcome of the Fed’s quantitative easing campaign to result in much higher inflation.  Some very astute investment managers, who had correctly predicted the financial meltdown now view the treasury market as overpriced.

  • Jeremy Grantham of GMO describes the 30 year treasury bond as “ridiculously” overpriced and effectively forecasting only a 1% annual rate for the next three decades.  Mr Grantham sees the scenario where there could easily be a large surge in inflation.
  • Bob Rodriquez who runs the FPA New Income Fund and was up on the year in 2008 also sees a “massive bubble in treasurys”.  He is not buying treasurys since “We will not lend long term money to a borrower that capriciously erodes its balance sheet.”
  • Peter Schiff of EuroPacific Capital also sees a substantial risk of massive inflation and sharply higher interest rates at some point.   Eventually foreign investors will refuse to buy US Government debt based on concerns about the US ability to repay its debts.

The above scenarios may not be imminent but they do become more probable as the US Government depletes the Treasury with endless bailouts, guarantees and borrowing.

Few May Benefit From Lower Mortgage Rates

Rates Increase

Mortgage rates increased today on a sell off in the Treasury market. The benchmark 10 year treasury note increased in yield by 16 basis points (bps) to 2.244%. The 2008 low on the 10 year treasury yield was 2.038%.

Courtesy Yahoo Finance

The increased yield on the treasury bond has resulted in a mortgage rate increase of 3/8% over the past few weeks.   A 30 year fixed rate mortgage at par today is 4.875%, historically a super low rate.  So what if rates moved up a little bit – 4.875% still sounds almost too good to believe.

Low Rate Does Not Apply To All Borrowers

Before rushing out to refinance, be aware that the advertised low rate of 4.875% is available only to the most perfect borrowers and the 4.875% rate will cost around 1 point (1% of the loan amount) plus other closing costs.

Unless a borrower has perfect credit (at least a 720 FICO score), adequate income (debt ratio of 32% or less) and substantial equity in the home (loan to value of 75% or less), the rate will be higher due to adders.  Adders are fees imposed by Fannie and Freddie if the applicant does not fit into the little box of a perfect borrower.  Adders are imposed for higher loan to value, lower credit scores and cash out refinances.  The adders can easily amount to 2% of the loan amount, or $2,000 on a $100,000 loan.   If a borrower is applying for cash out with a FICO score below 680 many lenders will turn the loan down.

Here’s an example of what used to be considered a prime borrower in the recent past.  Borrower has a 680 FICO score, adequate income and wants $20,000 cash out with an 80% loan to value and a loan amount of $160,000.   The chart below shows the cost of not being a perfect borrower as defined today.

Interest Rate

6.750%

Price Adjustments

-1 FICO 680-699, LTV 75.01-80

-0.8750 C/O Refi. LTV 75.01-80, FICO 680-699

The best rate this borrower would get quoted today would be 6.75% and the mortgage company would need to charge an additional 1 to 2 points on the loan (up to $3200 based on a $160,000 loan amount).

This is the reality of the mortgage market today.  Many borrowers applying for a refinance with visions of a 4.875% rate and a payment reduction are finding out that they do not qualify.   There is much in the news about the “mortgage refinance boom”.   Expect to see stories in a month or two about how few borrowers actually benefited from the lower rates.

How To Inspire Panic In An Economic Crisis

In an extraordinarily candid and chilling economic assessment, the Governor of the Bank of Spain, Miguel Ordonez, warned that the global economy is on the brink of a “total” financial meltdown.  Governor Ordonez, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais is quoted as follows:

“This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression”

“There is an almost total paralysis from which no-one is escaping.”

“The inter-bank (lending) market is not functioning and this is generating vicious cycles: consumers are not consuming, businessmen are not taking on workers, investors are not investing and the banks are not lending.”

“If, among other variables, we observe that inflation expectations go much below two percent, it’s logical that we will lower rates.”

“The lack of confidence is total”

One thing for certain is that the Governor’s remarks will do nothing to restore confidence in the financial system.  Typically, central banker statements are reserved and constructed to restore confidence in the financial system rather than to incite panic.

As the head of Spain’s Central Bank, one of the Governor’s primary functions is the promotion of the sound working and stability of the financial system.  One may wonder exactly how seriously the Central Bank adhered to their duties when they allowed the Spanish property markets to soar to ridiculous markets values, fueled by easy Central Bank lending policies and lax oversight.  Perhaps they were following Alan Greenspan’s advice that bubbles cannot be recognized and are best dealt with after the fact.   It is statements such as this that prove the basic incompetency of Greenspan,  the man most responsible for destroying the integrity of the world’s financial system.

The central banks responsible for the insane easy money and lending policies that brought us to the brink of ruin are now in charge of restoring confidence. Their prescription for recovery is more easy credit. ( See $700 Billion Debated – $5 Trillion Ignored)    I think it is indeed time to panic.

Streamlined Modification Program – Who Is Eligible?

On December 18, 2008 the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Hope announced their Streamline Modification Program (SMP) to assist troubled homeowners.  By implementing common standards and procedures for loan servicers to follow it is expected that the process will expedite the process of modifying a mortgage loan for a troubled homeowner.

Am I eligible for assistance under the new Streamlined Modification Program (SMP)?

If the answer to all of the following questions are YES, you may qualify for assistance under the new Streamlined Modification Program (SMP).

  1. Is your mortgage principal equal to or greater than 90% of your home’s market value?
  2. Is your home a single family residence or condo?
  3. Is the single family residence or condo your primary residence?
  4. Is your mortgage past due by 3 months or more?
  5. Is there a financial hardship that caused you to become late with your mortgage?
  6. Did you take out your mortgage before January 1, 2008?
  7. Can you verify your income?
  8. Is your current monthly mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) greater than 38% of your gross monthly income?

If you answered yes to all of the above questions you probably qualify for assistance.  Even if you think you may not be qualified, you should still call your loan service provider, who will try to arrange an affordable monthly mortgage payment.  The Federal Housing Finance Agency states that “The key to success is the borrower’s ongoing cooperation and communication with the (loan) servicer”.

Other Considerations

The loan servicer’s phone number is usually listed on your mortgage statement.   In addition, the participating loan servicers in the SMP will attempt to contact delinquent borrowers by phone and mail.

A homeowner’s mortgage may be in foreclosure but the borrower may not be in an active bankruptcy.  A mortgage that was modified previously is eligible.   The new SMP covers mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Mortgages with the FHA, VA and RHS are not eligible under this program.

The loan service provider is authorized to lower your interest rate to as low as 3%.   A struggling homeowner has nothing to lose by directly contacting their service provider to determine eligibility.

FOREX Traders Call Bernanke’s Hand

Currency traders have voted on the Fed’s latest policy decisions and this is the result – a collapsing dollar.

Courtesy of stockcharts.com

The magnitude of the latest rate cut apparently surprised foreign dollar holders who can only assume that the US economy is weaker than they previously believed.  Why would a foreign investor hold dollars that return zero interest and also risk foreign currency losses on top of that?

The Fed’s intention to create as many dollars as necessary to cure the credit markets is creating a huge oversupply of dollars.  Is the falling dollar the result of unintended consequences or was it a deliberate calculation by the Fed to weaken the dollar?  A weak dollar means US companies can sell their goods at cheaper prices, thus boosting sales and profits.   A weak dollar would also boost the price of foreign imports and in theory help prevent further deflation.  If the Fed was planning on a weak dollar policy, it was a poor choice on either count.  Consumers can’t afford higher prices and other nations can also cut rates to zero.

Previous actions of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve have not inspired confidence.  They are trying everything that might work with no certainty of the end result.    An almost proactive policy to weaken the dollar may only invite competitive devaluations, creating further havoc in the currency markets.

The factor that may now cause the most fear is that  interest rate cuts are no longer a policy option.  The unintended consequences of applying unconventional monetary policy, the only option left, may now be the biggest fear of all.