From the WSJ:
Bank of America Corp. BAC -1.69%decrease; red down pointing triangle gobbled up hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage bonds during the height of the pandemic. But with rates rising, its buying spree has ended.
Banks have stepped back from buying mortgage bonds. So has the Federal Reserve, the largest investor in that market. Foreign buyers and money managers are curtailing purchases too, analysts say.
The lack of buyers has helped push mortgage rates to their highest level in 20 years. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate topped 7% recently, further cooling a housing market that was red hot just a few months ago.
When lenders extend mortgages to people buying homes or refinancing, they don’t usually hold on to the loans. Instead, they pool them into bonds that get sold to investors, often with a guarantee from a government-controlled entity that investors will get repaid.
Today, a shrunken pool of buyers are demanding a higher yield to own mortgage bonds. That is driving up the rates on the mortgages inside those bonds at a faster pace than their benchmark, Treasury yields. The gap between them was recently the biggest since the 1980s, according to the Urban Institute.
“Banks stepping back, the Fed stepping back, foreign investors stepping back—that has widened the spread that mortgages trade at versus Treasurys, which directly translates to the borrower’s mortgage rate,” said Nick Maciunas, a research analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Last year, an abundance of buyers for mortgage bonds helped hold mortgage rates at near record lows.