2009-01-30wsj.com

Nearly $750 billion of option adjustable-rate mortgages, or option ARMs, were issued from 2004 to 2007, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry publication. Rising delinquencies are creating fresh challenges for companies such as Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. that acquired troubled option-ARM lenders.

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With home prices falling, more than 55% of borrowers with option ARMs owe more than their homes are valued at, according to J.P. Morgan Securities Inc.

As of December, 28% of option ARMs were delinquent or in foreclosure, according to LPS Applied Analytics, a data firm that analyzes mortgage performance. That compares with 23% in September. An additional 7% involve properties that have already been taken back by the lenders. By comparison, 6% of prime loans have problems. Problems with subprime are still the worst. Just over half of subprime loans were delinquent, in foreclosure, or related to bank-owned properties as of December. The nearly $750 billion of option ARMs issued from 2004 to 2007 compares with roughly $1.9 trillion each of subprime and jumbo mortgages in that period.

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Nearly 61% of option ARMs originated in 2007 will eventually default, according to a recent analysis by Goldman Sachs, which assumed a further 10% decline in home prices. That compares with a 63% default rate for subprime loans originated in 2007. Goldman estimates more than half of all option ARMs outstanding will default.


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