Toomre Capital Markets LLC

Real-Time Capital Markets -- Analytics, Visualization, Event Processing, and Intelligence


Lehman Brothers - Fannie Mae Pairs Trade and a Cup of Coffee

Toomre Capital Markets LLC ("TCM") is an active consultancy in the areas of structured finance, risk management and financial engineering. As a result, we have many conversations with numerous people across the spectrum of clients, prospects, former associates and other industry contacts. In the past several months, many of these conversations have touched upon Lehman Brothers, especially given Lars Toomre's personal history of working there and back in the 1980's running that firm's very influential ABS and mortgage derivatives trading business(es).

Given that that specific business area in the fixed-income markets is at the heart of the current credit crunch in the Capital Markets, many have asked more privately just what Lars has been thinking about the on-going market developments. Lars has specifically made a point (until now) on refusing to comment publically about Lehman Brothers and the recent sacking of his former boss, Joe Gregory, who until recently was the President of Lehman Brothers.

On Friday July 11th 2008, yet another contact queried what Lars thought about the on-going melt-down in financial equity securities, particularly those currently in the news such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Citigroup, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. We talked through the various plus and minuses of these potential investments. This contact, who runs a multi-billion dollar portfolio on a leveraged basis, then asked Lars to put on his theoretical trading hat and suggest some specific trades. Lars demurred.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Future of Mortgage Finance

Toomre Capital Markets LLC ("TCM") has been quite busy during the past few weeks on client work ahead of the summer vacation period. As a result, there has been limited time to update this blog. Today's news of the Treasury Department's defense of the struggling GSE's known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac though deserves some comment.

That both of these GSE's need to be supported in at least an oral sense is more than a ripple in the Capital Markets pond. It is much more like a major wave. Just what the final cost to tax payers will be remains to be seen. TCM suspects that the final bill will not be known until well after residential home prices stabilize and even begin to appreciate again. No doubt, though, the costs will be significant.

Lost in all of the GSE consternation is the lack of discussion about the critical policy decision on the future of mortgage finance in the United States. TCM has highlighted this critical issue before. Until the late 1980s, the S&L's were the primary holders of mortgage debt. Commercial banks also have owned some mortgage debt (with significant capital haircuts). The relatively lower capital requirements and the ability to "turn" the mortgage origination portfolios led to the rapid growth in securitization and the funding of mortgage debt through investors in the capital markets.