Could this be the Death of Fed Subsidies to Banks?

Posted by Ian Cooper - Monday, January 17th, 2011

From Zero Hedge:

"Over the past week, one of the less noticed and more notable developments, was that the 2s10s quietly climbed back to just short of all time record wides: at 273 bps, the curve is just 13 basis point away from the all time record 286 bps achieved on February 2, 2010.

For those who still don't understand how this most recent gift to the banks by the Fed and the government works, the math is that for every 100 bps in spread widening, banks make profits by borrowing free at the 2 Year and lending out at the 10 Year spread (on a Price x Volume basis, although as we will discuss momentarily while the price (i.e. spread) may be there the volume is missing), even as home prices decline by about 12% for each percentage point.

In other words, in the past year the entire double dip in home prices can be attributed to the spike in long-term rates, which have in turn caused mortgage rates to jump to year highs. All of this has been predicated by increasing concerns that the Fed will allow runaway inflation, as a result pushing 10 and 30 Year spreads (and gold) ever higher.

And while traditionally, a steep curve implies substantial bank profits, this time it is really is different, as demand for mortgages, by far the biggest bank product beneficiary from rising LT interest rates, is non-existent - recent new and refinancing mortgage applications are plumbing 15 year lows, meaning that even if banks make exorbitant profits on a spread basis, there is just not enough of them to go around, which in turn means that banks once again have to rely on accounting gimmicks such as declining reserve provisions to pad their books.

And unfortunately for the banks, every incremental basis point increase from here on out only means accelerating home price deflation (regardless of how many days in a row cotton, wheat and whiskey closes limit up), which will wreak havoc on myth of any "recovery." This is in fact the most salient point of Scott Minerd's of Guggenheim latest letter: while the bulk of his latest thoughts is focused on Europe, we believe that the critical part if really that dealing with US interest rates.

As he concludes: "The story in housing remains a compelling reason yields on the 10-year note above 4 percent are simply not sustainable at this juncture." We complete agree, which also means that the strawman of higher bank earnings due to the yield curve is now dead and buried. Alas for all the bank bulls, from this point on the only direction the curve can go is down... Unless of course the Fed really loses control of the long end in which case all bets are off and QE3 is sure include purchases of MBS."

Read more here.

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