Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Predictions: As We Start the New Year, Many Are Wondering What Will Happen to the Global Economy (Think China), the Stock Market (Think Correction) or Even the 2016 Presidential Race (Think What You Want Here, People-Because Honestly, Who Knows?)

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Predictions: As We Start the New Year, Many Are Wondering What Will Happen to the Global Economy (Think China), the Stock Market (Think Correction) or Even the 2016 Presidential Race (Think What You Want Here, People-Because Honestly, Who Knows?)

Article excerpt

But we think the deeper uncertainty may be what's going to happen to Lady Edith and little Marigold?

Don't bother asking Dave Stevens about Lady Edith and her little one. They are on their own as far as he's concerned. Same goes for Tom, the former chauffeur, and little Sybbie--all of Doumton Abbey fame, now in its final season (sigh).

Stevens says he is not among the millions addicted to Doumton Abbey, the PBS English period drama for the titled country-house set (think Van Dyck portraits of relatives and fox hunting). Stevens says his wife, Mary, doesn't follow it, either. (But we understand Michelle Obama's a big fan.)

If you want to talk serious television addictions with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) chief executive officer, he says you need to think Showtime's spy series, Homeland. That's his series of choice.

Yet that's not really why we sat down to chat anyway. (Well, if he was a Doumton Abbey fan, it might have been.)

It was Jan. 5--the day after the stock market dropped 276 points on the first day of trading in 2016. The meltdown over China fears rattled financial folks and started the media Googling "stock market correction." And it's pretty much been downhill from there.

Going into our first sit-down of the year with Stevens, our plan was to get his gut-level predictions on the economy, the campaign, the mortgage industry and other important stuff. (The Denver Broncos came up, but we'll get to that later.)

We came in with a rather long list of questions, and we knew we had to talk fast to get them all in. (He gets restless and starts to type emails if you don't keep things rolling.)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

So here goes. We start with interest rates (the easy stuff) and other people's forecasts.

Question 1: Do you think 30-year fixed mortgage rates will average 4.5 percent in 2016, as the official MBA forecast predicts? He says, "4.5 percent is a good number--even though a hair over or a hair under is possible." (That's pretty decisive when it comes to interest rates, so let's give the guy credit.)

He points to a lot of things that might ambush the rate picture, saying, "It depends on China [and] other economic developments, including oil." He noted that "Yesterday the market tanked on China news, so it wouldn't take much" to unsettle the market in a way that affects rates.

Question 2: We asked if either of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) would post a negative net income quarter in 2016. And we wanted to know if it would be Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or both.

Stevens said the only way it will happen is if there are significant swings in interest rates during the year. He explained when you hedge with derivatives (as both GSEs do), you get an impact on earnings whenever there is a substantial swing in rates.

He said, "The probability is high that at least one of them will [post a negative income quarter], given what we just saw" in the stock market the day before we spoke. But he added it would take a significant movement in rates outside of what's been forecast.

Question 3: We asked whether Ginnie Mae's outstanding mortgage-backed securities (MBS) total volume will overtake Freddie Mac's outstanding MBS in 2016. And then we asked: Does that even matter?

"I think it will--and I don't think it matters necessarily, no." OK, so much for that.

But he always gives you the rationale for his answers, so he went on to explain that what's driving the run-up in Ginnie volume is that it is more dominant in the purchase sector, with more millennial buyers, especially, using the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program. Whereas the GSEs are being hurt by the lack of refinancings and the ending of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) programs.

Question 4: We asked Stevens what would happen in terms of GSE reform in 2016. …

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