Housing, payroll tax extension, a Greek deal and more …
• Mortgage Servicer Settlement. Loren Berlin at the HuffPo writes: As Mortgage Settlement Deal Nears Feb. 3 Deadline, Nevada AG Raises Concerns
As the Obama administration, state attorneys general and the nation’s biggest banks close in on a settlement over allegations of widespread mortgage fraud, Nevada’s attorney general is pushing back with concerns and questions. Meanwhile a Feb. 3 deadline looms for states to declare whether they are joining the settlement.
In a letter sent Friday, emailed to federal officials and obtained by The Huffington Post, Nevada’s attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto, asked 38 questions relating to a variety of concerns, including fears that states would play second fiddle to the federal government in making decisions. She also questioned if states would lose their ability to pursue certain types of lawsuits against banks and whether states would get their fair share of the housing assistance for their borrowers.
It sounds like these issues will be clarified, and I expect most states (if not all) to join the settlement. Note that Masto has been working closely with California AG Harris.
• A surge in refinance activity in March. Not a new policy – this was announced last October when the FHFA made changes to Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to allow more homeowners with GSE loans and with negative or near negative equity – and who are current on their mortgages – to refinance into lower interest rate loans.
The key to this program – for the lenders – was that the lender was not responsible for any of the representations and warranties associated with the original loan (this is huge for the lenders). The elimination of Reps and warrants for the original loans applies to Desktop Underwriter® (DU) and that will not be updated until March.
• REO to Rental Program: This rental program for Fannie and Freddie REO is being pushed by several agencies, and was discussed earlier this month in the Fed white paper “The U.S. Housing Market: Current Conditions and Policy Considerations” and by NY Fed President William Dudley: Housing and the Economic Recovery
This program could include bulk REO sales to investors, but might also include Fannie and Freddie renting out more REOs. There will be a similar effort for non-GSE properties as regulators relax the rules on banks renting out properties. Note: This program isn’t needed in many areas because of the strong demand from small investor groups.
• Extension of payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits: The two month extension expires Feb 29th, and I expect these two programs will be extended through the end of the year. From Bloomberg: Boehner Says He’s Confident Congress Will Extend Payroll Tax-Cut
House Speaker John Boehner said he’s confident that Republicans and Democrats in Congress will agree to a payroll tax-cut extension supported by President Barack Obama.
“We are in a formal conference with the Senate, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to resolve this fairly quickly,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week” program yesterday.
And on Europe:
• Although a default is possible, I expect the Greek debt deal and next bailout agreement to be reached sometime in February. From the Athens News: Troika stick delays PSI carrot
Despite its agreement with bondholders on all the parameters of private-sector involvement (PSI) in the Greek debt writedown, the government will have to wait for another week before winning approval from the EU-IMF-ECB troika for a second bailout package worth 130bn euros.
A timely PSI deal for the haircut of 50 per cent – or 100bn euros – from the 205bn euro privately held portion of Greek debt was crucial to avert a Greek default before March 20 when a 14.4bn euro bond redemption comes due.
These deals always happen at the last minute, and this will be no exception.
• The second round of the ECB’s 3 year Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) will probably be for over €1 trillion (the first 3 year LTRO was for €489 billion). The second auction will be held on February 29th. From the Financial Times: Banks set to double crisis loans from ECB
Several of the eurozone’s biggest banks have told the Financial Times that they could well double or triple their request for funds … “Banks are not going to be as shy second time round,” said the head of one eurozone bank .. “We should have done more first time.”
It may be well over €1 trillion.