Damian Paletta reports in the Wall Street Journal today that "[d]elinquency rates for subprime adjustable rate mortgages reached 14.44% in the fourth quarter of last year, jumping 122 basis points in three months...."
This is based on data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's National Delinquency Survey. "[D]elinquencies on one-to-four family homes jumped 28-basis points in the fourth quarter to 4.95%." These data are reported quarterly.
The Stock Market fell 242 points. The mortgage market's woes help pull equity prices down.
The role of fraud and brokers
Mortgage brokers had a money machine when interest rates were low, house prices rising, and mortgage refinancing was a boom business. When that boom faded, apparently some less scrupulous brokers wrote mortgages that have turned sour. How much of the problems in the subprime market result from fraud and how much from changing economics is not clear. Imprudent lending and borrowing are certainly a big part of the problem.
What is the effect on the economy and mail volumes?
Securitizing the pain
The last time that we had wide spread mortgage credit delinquencies and foreclosures was in the run up to the 1990-91 recession. At that time a much larger proportion of mortgages were on bank balance sheets. As banks wrote off assets reducing their capital, they cut back on business loans contributing to that recession. The conventional wisdom is that securitiztion reduces the economy's vulnerability to a wave of mortgage defaults. I am less sanguine.
The real estate sector has been an important source of mail volumes in recent years. We should expect a cutback in solicitations from mortgage brokers. When the problems in mortgage markets overflow into credit card issuers, expect a cutback in credit card solicitations to the subprime market.