‘Fix or forever hold your tongue!’, A floor on Rates (with a rise likely!)

Rates likely to rise as per AIB’s statement, and PTsbs actions, what we are trying to tell everybody, in clear English is this: ‘If you don’t have a price guarantee on your mortgage via a tracker or fixed rate agreement then you will be paying greater margin over ECB in the near future than you are now’. If you don’t act upon that information then it is your own decision but you can’t say you weren’t forewarned.

Forewarning doesn’t stop disaster, the historical evidence on that is overwhelming, in particular in the military arena, today however, we will look at some of the potential changes we might see in the market.

Floor Rate: This would be a variable agreement whereby the rate will never dip below a certain level. For instance, a bank might say that in a low rate environment it will (in the future) never allow its variable rate to drop below 4%, …

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Understanding why mortgage rates MUST rise.

We have been saying for some time that interest rates on mortgages must rise, you can look at supply and demand, or you can look at the types of products that have ceased to exist such as tracker mortgages (removing fixed margin loan products) and then there is the proliferation of variable LTV products which set the stage for the ability to manipulate margin on more loans. The question is ‘what all of this means’, and the purpose of this post is to explain how deposits, business lending and mortgages are all interconnected parts of the banking system and how margins are set based upon them.

Last week PTsb finally came out and said that they were considering an

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Are you getting your full tax relief?

There was an article in one of Ireland’s national newspapers last week describing the major issues surrounding the rescinding and subsequent re instatement of mortgage Interest relief. For those who are uninformed about this subject, mortgage interest relief (or TRS) was suspended pending the requirement for every person that previously claimed relief to re-apply for it. This was not a move intended to deprive anyone of their entitlements, more a housekeeping exercise to make sure that things are as they should be.

Thousands of Irish home owners had their tax relief temporarily suspended so that a general process of reassessment could take place whereby people would ascertain that whatever they were receiving in tax relief was correct. The Government spends millions every year on the TRS scheme, and with the exchequer being frightfully strained like Mary Hearney doing a triathlon, it was a necessary to ensure that the recipients of tax relief at source were indeed fully entitled to it.

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Track that Yield Curve! ECB effects.

Today the FT has reported that the ECB will offer unlimited 12 mth repo facilities to banks, this is a big step for the generally hawkish bank. Note: Unlimited.

We have said on this blog/radio/national papers that the 1% mark is not likely to be passed due to the compression it causes on banking profits (the ZIRP policy was one of the inherent issues with Japan’s lost decade). So the opportunity to get in at what is being touted as the historic low, not to be repeated, will have an effect and the belief – at least in this house – is that it will be on the right hand side of the yield curve.

Undoubtedly banks will now gather every available piece of collateral and cash it in. Remember you heard it hear first: this will cause a problem in about 12 months time when the piper has to be paid and everybody is cashing out/back in …

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A bank who wants clients should issue a tracker offering.

Trackers are dead and gone, there is one on the market but it’s at a margin so high that it is effectively worse than a bad variable rate. Evidence from the UK indicates that Co-Operative Bank’s tracker offering which is 2.39% tracker mortgage.

Will Irish banks follow suit? Probably not in the short term, when the market turns there will be some bank who have accumulated more than capital required and they will then turn this into lending, having said that, it will likely be a self underwriting product, one where the LTV is <= 50%, minimum of €200k borrowed but no more than €450/500k, and a qualifying income of €90k combined needed (stripped of overtime/bonus etc.).

If trackers come back I would be totally satisfied that they will operate as a client cherry picking operation more than anything, having said that, with time a competitor might follow suit!

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Get ahead of the curve on fixed rates… Oops! Too late!

We have been touting fixed rates for quite some time on the basis that people needed to fix at the time rates were heading for historic lows, not after the fact, as well as that, the indications from the ECB that they would not go below 1% and instead would seek alternative options (such as QE) meant that once we got close to the 1% the forward market would price that in, but when we actually reached the 1% base that equally the forward market would price in rising rates.

That is exactly what has happened, it wasn’t front page news when we said it, although the Sunday Times did do a big story in their business section in mid-February, but now that banks are starting to raise their interest rates it certainly is!

It gets back to planning, without exception every client we had that deliberately went for a fixed rate in the interim is in a good position, some who have opted for variable rates are doing well …

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Current account interest rates are set to drop

Banks have a pool of money called ‘zero rated funds’, this is the money that they hold for which they are paying no interest. Lots of current accounts fall under this category, and banks can figure out with time, the block that is there on a regular basis when you remove the marginal volatility in the funds held at any time.

Imagine you own a money shop and you buy in money and sell it too, in the till you know that no matter what  happens you always seem to have at least €60 in the till, that would be the equivalent of your zero rated funds (hope that makes sense!).

When banks lend they take these zero rated funds and mix them with money bought on the market to come up with ‘blended rates’. So while some money is costing 0% other money might cost 1.269% (that’s today’s 3 month Euribor ), you then get an average of these and depending on what the ‘blend’ or ‘mix’ is your …

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When will bonds be available online?

Typically the bond market is something that institutional investors, sovereign funds, and the very wealthy tend to invest in. Take for instance Dolmen Securities ‘Bond of the week’ (which is CRH this week), when I enquired about minimum order sizes I was told it was €50,000.00 which is fine if you are a bank but the majority of private investors would not have that kind of money to put into a bond – or at least not at that price tag or it would affect their diversification. Dolmen are a great house btw, I like their analysis, and in general what they do. However, CRH are trying to raise a bond in a market where literally everybody is trying to raise funds or roll over debt.

The competition is high, the US Treasury and HM Treasury in the UK are leading the way, that’s before we even get into municipal bonds and corporates. So what can be done? The Treasury in the US have alwasy taken the view …

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Are we in a cyclical bull market?

Steve Leuthold talks on Bloomberg about the reasons he feels we are going to see a cyclical bull market (as opposed to the secular bear that many feel we are in). Small cap stocks (likely some pinksheets) and many others are headed upwards according to Leuthold who feels that this we are seeing the best valuations he has come across in his 45 years of studying the markets.  He says that a split of 65% in stocks is now advisable, that is a huge weighting given the market moves we have seen lately where equity holders have been continuously wiped out. Big tech stocks and gold both feature in his talk.

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Recapitalised banks 'cherry picking' applications.

The only banks that are truly ‘open for business’ are those that have received state funding, and this is on both sides of the book.

On the deposit side Anglo are paying market leading rates, they are now fully nationalised, and because their new owners have the deepest pockets the ‘better banks’ who didn’t need a state sponsored bailout cannot compete.

On the lending front only two banks are actively engaged in lending at somewhat regular levels, and they too were saved by the taxpayer (because that is where the state get their money from). However, rather than being the ‘saviours’ of the banking sector they are merely taking the best of applications and opting for the cream of the crop, any ‘increase’ in lending is as much down to artificially low margins on rates (state sponsored), and gaining customers that would have gone elsewhere in an operational market (because if every other bank is unable to obtain state funding to lend with then they have to lose customers to those that did …

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