Mortgage-backed securities are investments backed by homeowner’s mortgage payments. The return on these securities is a percentage of the principal and interest payments associated with them.
Mortgage-backed securities allow investors to invest in the mortgage business without holding a mortgage. Such a security allows the holder to buy a stake in a home loan in exchange for a percentage of the repayments. Buyers of such mortgage-backed securities include institutional, corporate, and individual investors.
Such securities come under asset-backed securities. They can only be as functional as the assets that back it up. This was evident in the 2008 housing market crisis where poorly backed securities were falsely sold as high-grade investments.
Mortgage loans can be purchased from the banks, mortgage companies and other lenders of such loans and then assembled into pools by either governmental or private institutions, or a mix of both. These institutions then release securities holding claims on the original set of mortgage loans.
These claims entitle the buyer to a certain amount of the interest and principal amount repayments made by the borrowers of the underlying pool of loans. This process is called securitization.
The bundle of mortgages made by the institution should be made in line with loans having similar interest rates. These bundled securities are called Special Investment Vehicle and are kept separate from a bank’s existing operations.
People can trade into MBS with the help of a broker who can place an order on their behalf. MBS can be purchased physically or through online orders.
Mortgage-backed securities date back to 1986, when the first security of such kind was issued by Fannie Mae. These securities gained recognition in 1977 when Lewis Ranieri, who was a bond trader at Salomon Brothers, was trying to find an answer to why banks were not giving out as may mortgages as they used to.
It was found that the long repayment period combined with lower interest rates repayments made it harder for banks to pay higher interest rates on deposits spread out over shorter periods. Thus, issuing mortgages became difficult for banks.
Consequently, the idea of 5-year and 10-yeaar bonds backed by interest and principal payments came to light. The concept of MBS had been put into action by mortgage investors like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and VA. The new security class allowed investments to be made over shorter time frame. Thus, investors were drawn to the idea and MBS investing took off.
Depending on the type of investment made, mortgage-backed securities can be divided into 2 types:
These were developed in early 2000s, to attract investors. CMOs are more complicated investment instruments than the firmer as they are a combination of different securities. The CMO tranches are made based on the level of risks associated with them.
Least risky tranches have cash flows with higher certainty attached to them and lower possibility of default. On the other hand, higher risk traches have uncertain cash flows attached to them with a higher degree of default possible. In this sense, CMOs are a more sophisticated form of investment.
In the United States, an MBS can be issued by a government-sponsored enterprise, or a private financial company. A government sponsored enterprise is a type of organization that is established by Congress with the intent of improving credit flow in some regions of the US economy. These include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which are prime examples of a government sponsored enterprise.
The underlying mortgage must be issued by a regulated and authorized financial institution. Additionally, the MBS must be given either of the top two ratings by an accredited credit rating agency.
Mortgage-backed securities have impacts not only on the housing sector, but also on financial markets and on the economy. During the global financial crisis, the increased issuing of mortgage-backed securities allowed more people to buy homes, thus, housing demand surged.
The MBS also liquidated the housing loan market. When banks were struggling to provide loans to a higher number of customers, MBS allowed them to capitalize on ongoing loans. These ongoing loans fetched the banks with enough capital for them to start issuing more loans to newer customers.
For investors, MBS acts like bonds with known returns along with lower risk of losing money as compared to the stock market. These are a much safer form of investment compared to investments in equity, commodity, etc.
The safety of these investments becomes even more pronounced when the MBS is government backed. For instance, in the United States, securities bought through Ginnie Mae are directly backed by the government.
Similarly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are privatized enterprises under government conservatorship since late 2008 are safer investment options than stock markets. Thus, most MBS come with a greater level of guarantee than other investments. Also, in case of a foreclosure of a loan, the investor must be repaid thoroughly by the bond issuing agency.
However, the MBS that are not backed by government agencies are riskier investments. Investing in these securities can be detrimental to the investor as they may not be repaid in the case of foreclosure of loans.
It is also important to note that any dips in the housing market would be accompanied by a boost as houses would never go out of demand due to the ever-lasting need for a roof over one’s head.
During early 2000s, it was compulsory for every bank in the United States to exercise due diligence before lending money for a mortgage. Banks made it a point to check the financial stability of the borrower including income, debt, credit rating.
After the introduction of mortgage-backed securities, the process of conducting due diligence changed. The most qualified customers with the highest credit rating had already invested in homes and had ongoing mortgages with various banks. This led to banks turning towards subprime borrowers to lend mortgage loans to.
This led to the development of no-document loans which did not require any information or background check. This was backed by the issuing of the MBS, which made the banks more secured about loan repayment. Initially the MBS performed well as they were backed by good quality loans issued to borrowers with higher credit ratings. As loans progressed towards borrowers with lower credit ratings, the structure of the MBS started to crash.
More and more complicated Mortgage-backed securities started were issued by banks with underlying subprime mortgages. These subprime mortgages held the risk of default as the borrowers did not hold adequate level of credit ratings.
The collateralized mortgage obligations further complicated the scenario. These complex securities were made with tranches of securities which had further been made from subprime mortgages. These were riskier, however, they offered higher return in exchange for the high risk associated with them. At the same time borrowers of the underlying subprime loans were asked to pay higher interest rates due to the increased risk of default.
This ultimately led to them defaulting on their loans, which mandated the banks to seize the houses of these borrowers. Thus, there was an oversupply of houses in the market. This took a turn for the worse as people found themselves paying mortgages for houses that were priced much lower in the market. This happened due to increased number of houses on sale, which led to a drop in the value of houses.
There was crash across banking, housing and investment banking space leading to overall economic recession.
The crisis of 2008 led to a decline in the popularity of mortgage-baked securities. However, MBS have resurfaced and are still bought and sold in markets. The pretext is simply the fact that people generally repay their mortgages.
Additionally, many new rules and regulations have been put into place following the 2006 crisis. These have strengthened the financial sector and have provided greater security to MBS issuers in case of a loan default.
Under the new rules, these securities must provide disclosure to investors which has led to lesser MBS being issued apart from the ones issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The economic slowdown in 2008 and beyond was a proof of how interconnected each sector of an economy is and the extent of a domino effect one mistake can have on the overall economy.
The crash of the market has led to the realization that MBS are more interconnected than had been previously thought by investors, banks, and other financial institutions alike.
Thus, mortgage-backed securities are risky investments and must be carefully investigated. Only government backed securities should be invested in. In the United States such guaranteed securities are issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. This is done to promote the mortgage industry so that a greater number of people can become homeowners and the housing market always remains liquid.
What is the Dark Web? The dark web is one such portion of the World Wide Web which is not accessible by regular search engines. The dark web is considered a hotbed for criminal activities, and it is much more than that. Various websites exist on an encrypted network inside the dark web. Standard web browsers and programs cannot find these websites. Once inside the dark web, different sites and pages can be accessed like one does on the web. Scientists believe that the internet we see is only 4% of the entire ocean of the web, meaning the 96% consists of the "Deep and Dark Web". The user interface used in the dark web is usually internet-based, but it utilises special software which is not part of the standard ones. There are dozens of web browsers to surf the internet, but they all work in the same way. These standard browsers use ports and protocols to request, transfer and view data on the Internet. The website you access may look familiar, but as you enter, it may be illegal or something familiar but otherwise not monitored by anyone else. Therefore, the deep web and the dark web are famous for being anonymous. Also read: Cyber Espionage Campaign: Strings that tie China, Australia and the US How to access dark web browser? In order to access a few areas which are restricted, the user may need a password and a process to follow. A special software called TOR (The Onion Router) or the Freenet has these non-standard connections. These browsers are unlike standard internet browsers and have a process to access. They allow the users to browse around the dark web and are focused on keeping the user identity anonymous. If hacked or accessed, the regular web browser can easily provide user information such as who the user is and whereabouts. Though the dark web is providing 100% anonymity, federal agencies have been successful in tracking down criminal activities on the dark web. It is often said that the person you are talking to on the dark web could either be an FBI agent or a criminal. Image: Kalkine What happens inside the world of the dark web? The dark web is famous for allowing sinister activities, but many users go on the dark web to access information which otherwise may not be accessible on standard internet. Such as users from extremely oppressive governments who cut access to the world for their citizens. Unfortunately, such confidential environments also provide open platforms to criminals, terrorists and other such individuals involved in illegal activities. Hence, experts advise users to not access the dark web even out of curiosity as it is a lawless environment. There have been many incidents where innocent, curious users were trapped and forced to get involved in criminal activities or their digital devices hacked and compromised without their knowledge. A study conducted by a University of Surrey researcher Dr Michael McGuires in 2019, Into the Web of Profit, shows that the dark web has become worse in recent times. Since 2016 of all the listings on the dark web suggested, 60% could harm companies. Everything illegal and criminal can be found on the dark web, it also has other legitimate options such as chess clubs or book clubs, but because of the anonymity, the user will not know whom he/she is interacting with. Inside the dark web, anonymity and lawless nature make the crimes which exist otherwise in our society hard to trace. The payment procedure inside the dark web is also different from the World Wide Web. Most often, Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrency are used for the transactions. RELATED READ: Knock Knock! Cybercriminal at Your Doorstep What’s the difference between the deep web and dark web? The dark web is part of the entire deep web and is hidden from regular browsing access. Most people confuse the deep web and the dark web as one entity. It is not. The deep web content includes anything hidden and restricted behind the security wall such as content which otherwise requires paywall or sign-in or blocked by the author. Content which cannot be easily accessible on regular internet such as medical records, membership websites, paid content are available on the deep web; hence it is also called Invisible Web. No one really knows the total size of the internet, but the experts believe that the standard World Wide Web consists of only 4% internet, the deep web consists of 90% and dark web consists of 6% of the entire internet. ALSO READ: Technology has changed the way we work amid the COVID-19 crisis: A look at in-demand technologies Image: Kalkine Also read: It happens again, NZX being bullied by Cyber-attackers- Down for the fourth day What kind of risk companies face due to the dark web? The Into the Web of Profit report listed below threats various organisations around the world are facing, especially the ones who have weak or insufficient cybersecurity measures. Malware attacks Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks Botnets Trojan, keyloggers, exploits Espionage Credentials access Phishing Refunds Customer data Operational data Financial data Intellectual property/ trade secrets Also read: Cybersecurity and the Requirement of a Resilient Environment in Australia Are there advantages and disadvantages to the dark web? The dark web provides complete anonymity, the users get complete privacy to perform any activity, be it illegal or legal. Many countries in the world still have authoritarian regimes offering no civil rights to their people. To such oppressed lot, the dark web provides an opportunity to access news, information, data and also express their views. The dark web is also a perfect place for law agencies to map criminal activities while being undercover. It is also easy to commit gruesome crimes through the dark web as it is complicated and lawless. Criminals can easily use the dark web to compromise someone's privacy, steal data or private information or even hire someone to commit murder. Do internet users need to be concerned about the dark web? The simple answer is no unless the user is using the dark web. Study says that most young people visit the dark web out of curiosity. They do not want to indulge in any criminal activity but want to see how the hidden and secret world of the dark web operates. And that is where the possibility of the electronic device IP address getting hacked by other criminals to perform their criminal activities lies. The earliest use of darknet dates back to the year 2000. Freenet was created at the University of Edinburgh based on a student research paper. Ian Clark wrote the paper in 1999 on the possibility of such an encrypted internet base. Freenet was created to oppose censorship and provide a platform for free speech. The most powerful dark web is TOR, and it was created by the United States government to have a secure encrypted communication in case of emergency and complete disaster. Even today, many law agencies are secretly active inside the world of the dark web to gain access in the criminal world and stay one step ahead.
What is Day Trading? Day trading is popular among a section of market participants. It is a type of speculation wherein trades are squared-off before the market close in the same day. An individual or a group is engaged in buying and selling of securities for a short period for profits, the trades could be active for seconds, minutes or hours. One can engage in day trading of many securities in the market. Anyone who has sufficient capital to fund the purchase can engage in day trading. For a class of people, day trading is a full-time job. Day traders are agnostic to the long-term implications of the security and motive is to benefit from the price changes on either side and make profit out of the asset price fluctuations within a day. They bet on price movements of the security and are not averse to take short positions to benefit from the fall in price. Day trading is not only popular among individuals or retail traders but institutional traders as well, therefore the price movements are large sometimes depending on the magnitude of information flow and accessibility. Everyone wants to make money faster, and many are inclined to speculate in markets, but it comes with considerable risk and potential loss of capital. People engaged in day trading also incur losses, and oftentimes outcomes are disheartening. Day trading is a risky activity, similar to sports betting and gambling, and it could become addictive just like gambling and sports betting. Since the motive is to earn profits, the profits realised from day trading also tempt people to continue speculating. People spend considerable time and efforts to make the most out of day trading. They have to continuously absorb and incorporate information flow, which has become increasingly accessible driven by new-age communications systems like Twitter, Facebook, forums etc. But not only information flows have been favourable, day traders are now equipped with best in class infrastructure to execute trades even on compact devices like mobile phones. The accessibility to markets is at a paramount level and gone are days of phone call trading and lack of information flows. What are the essentials for Day Trading? Basic knowledge of markets With lack of basic knowledge of markets, day trading may yield unacceptable outcomes. It becomes imperative for people to know what’s on the stake. Prospective day traders should know about capital markets, and the securities traded in capital markets like bonds, equity and derivatives. Buying shares and expecting a return from the price movements are on the to-do list for many. However, it is important to know about and risks and potential returns from speculating in capital markets. After getting some basic knowledge about markets and securities, aspiring day traders should know how to analyse market prices of securities through fundamental analysis and technical analysis. Although day traders don’t practice fundamental analysis extensively, they spend considerable time to apply technical analysis, to formulate a entry and exit strategy. Device and internet connection Trading is now possible on mobile applications as well as computer applications or websites. An aspiring day trader will likely begin with mobile phone given the accessibility, and laptops/computers are useful as scale grows larger and complex. Internet connection is prerequisite to practising day trading, and it is favourable to have a fast internet connection to avoid glitches and potential problems. These perquisites are now available with large sections of societies. Broker and trading platform A broker will facilitate a market for potential trades. The security brokerage industry has also seen a profound shift as technology has driven cost lower while competition is ramping up across jurisdictions. Large retail brokerages have moved towards zero commission trading in the U.S., and the same is seen being the trend across other geographies as well. The entry of discount and online brokerages has perhaps given wings to the retail market participants as well as the retail market for security brokers. Robinhood has grown immensely popular in the United States, but there are many firms like Robinhood in other jurisdictions. Each country has some firms with business model on same lines as Robinhood. Brokers now offer high-quality mobile applications and web services to clients, and trading security has never been so accessible. They also provide access to the global market along with a range of securities, including commodity derivatives, currency derivatives, CFDs, options, futures, bond futures etc. Real-time market information flow On public sources, market price information is at times not live due technical shortcomings, which will not work appropriately, especially for day traders. Brokers not only provide platform and market but several other services, including margin lending, real-time data, research. Day traders closely track prices of securities and overall information flow to incorporate developments in bidding, and real-time data provides accurate prices throughout market hours. Information flow largely relates to the news around the company, industry or economy. Day traders now have far better sources of information than the conventional sources, and sometimes these sources could be exclusive to a group. What are the risks of day trading? Most of the aspiring day traders end up losing money, given the lack of experience and knowledge. They should rather only bet on capital that they are comfortable to loose, in short, they should avoid risk of ruin. Day trading is sort of pure-play speculation and application of knowledge, information flow, laced with good trading system is paramount. The only concern of day traders is movement in price, which contradicts from investments. Day traders try to time and ride the momentum in the price and exit the trade before momentum turns otherwise, which can happen frequently. It consumes considerable time and induces stress on the individuals given the nature of security prices, which can move north and south abruptly throughout the day, hours, minutes and seconds. Day traders should have enough capital to trade in cash instead of margin. Day trading on margin or borrowed money is extremely risky and has the potential to make a person insolvent, especially in cases of extreme risk-taking. The leverage associated with borrowed money magnifies profits as well as losses. Aspiring day traders should equip themselves with adequate knowledge, competency and sound risk management process. Although fast money is dear to most, it is better to know what is at stake before jumping into markets with excitement.
Dead Cat Bounce Dead Cat bounce is a colloquial phrase which is quite popular in the financial markets. The term was coined a long time ago and generally referred to the peculiar behaviour of the price. The phrase denotes a recovery in the asset’s price, often a sharp one after a prolonged downtrend. Sometimes it is also referred to a short but sharp fall, succeeded by an equally sharp recovery. How does a downtrend continue for a long time? Quite often, some securities in the financial markets depict a very long downtrend which may last from a few months to a few years depending on the severity of the fundamental headwinds. These prolonged downtrends are so strong that no support levels can withhold the downtrend and the prices keep on falling. Every support level gets taken out by excessive selling, which pushes the prices even lower. These lower prices force the long holders to liquidate their positions as no visible halt in the downtrend is noticed. This liquidation from existing buyers further fuels the selling, leading to the continuation of the downtrend. As the price keeps on falling, the buyers do not get enough confidence to buy and consequently keep getting overpowered by selling pressure continues the downtrend. So what is the ideology behind “Dead Cat Bounce”? In due course of a downtrend, the security tends to become oversold for the time being. Oversold is a technical term is used for security which seems to have fallen quite a bit in a specified period. In other words, a security that has been continually sold in a specified period tends to reach a level wherein the sellers are no more interested in selling at further lower rates. This is where the buyers’ step in and try to buy these stocks at low prices, leading to an increase in demand over the supply. This fresh buying tends to push the price up hence resulting in a short upside movement or, in technical parlance a “Bounce”. This point is where the downtrend witnesses a temporary upside momentum which is exactly quoted as a “Dead Cat Bounce”. The ideology is “Even a dead cat will bounce if fallen from a great height.” Likewise, a short bounce is quite expected after a prolonged downtrend which does not change the trend as a bounce does not mean the cat has become alive. Image Source ©Kalkine Group Does it signify a reversal from a downtrend? A Dead Cat bounce is an upside momentum, witnessed after a prolonged downward trend, generally near the oversold price region. But it is to be noted that this price bounce is merely a reaction of the downtrend which is often witnessed in the oversold areas. This does not change the entire trend, and more often than not, the trend continues in the primary direction after the bounce fizzles out. Why is it difficult to trade a Dead Cat Bounce? Most of the time it is difficult to trade a move like a Dead Cat Bounce as the bounce is often very quick and short-lived. The overall trend remains negative, which is in contradictory to the short-term bounce. Also, few investors mistake it for the trend change, which often proves to be a mistake. It generally becomes difficult to estimate some key support areas from where the bounce may occur as the downtrend is quite strong and lacks demand to support the price. However, there are some momentum indicators like RSI (Relative Strength Index), Stochastics oscillator etc. which may help to gauge oversold zones from where the bounce may occur. What are the reasons for a Dead Cat Bounce? There could be many reasons for a Dead Cat Bounce to occur on the charts as the sudden demand may come due to numerous reasons. Some of the reasons are Oversold Price As discussed, due to a prolonged downtrend and continued selling the price often comes to a level wherein the sellers are no more interested in selling at these lower prices and at the same time buyers often find a value proposition. This leads to a spike in demand, which ultimately results in a Dead Cat Bounce. Strong support area There are some levels of support on the price chart that are quite prominent. In other words, there are some regions of support which are quite strong and may remain relevant for years. These support levels are generally hard to break at the first attempt, which results in a bounce or a complete reversal. How to profit from a Dead Cat Bounce There are two different strategies when it comes to trading these kinds of sharp and against the trend moves. They are contradictory to each other, but both are based on proven price behaviour. Short Selling the rally As the primary trend of the underlying is still downward, one thought arises to go short on the bounce. This strategy one to participate in the downtrend but with a much better price. If these rallies are met with a resistance level like a falling trendline, horizontal price resistance etc. then these areas are ideal to sell the bounce in a downtrend. Buying into the rally Another opinion arises, why not to participate in the bounce? This strategy can also be fruitful provided the bounce should be stronger and last for a while, which is not always the case. This essentially calls for a very quick decision making while capitalising on the temporary bounce. Bottomline A Dead Cat Bounce is a prolonged downtrend followed by a short-term bounce. These bounces generally don’t last long, and once they fade, the trend continues towards the south. However, sometimes a bounce may also act as a reversal, but for the added confirmation a trader should also look at other signals of a reversal like bullish divergence at the bottom or a double bottom chart pattern.
What is earnest money? Earnest money refers to a sum of money that is paid by the buyer to the seller as a form of reassurance of future payments during the sale of a house. Paying earnest money is also beneficial to the buyer because it gives him leverage to arrange the remaining funds. Earnest money can be deposited via a direct home deposit, an escrow account or in the form of good faith money. How does earnest money work? Earnest money is paid before closing on a house sale. When the seller and buyer come to an agreement on the house sale, the seller must take the house off the market. Earnest money serves the purpose of assuring the seller that the deal would not fall through. The amount paid as earnest money is usually 1-3% of the total sale value of the house. Most sellers prefer to hold earnest money in an escrow account. In case the deal does not materialize, the money can be given back to the buyer directly from the escrow account. This removes the concerns any buyer may have about whether the money would be returned by the seller or not. In case the buyer and seller go ahead with the sale, the earnest money becomes a part of the down payment. Thus, the buyer would only pay the remaining amount of the down payment. However, in case the agreement does not materialize between the buyer and the seller, the earnest money is returned to the buyer after deducting the escrow fees from it. With money locked in on one house, buyers are less likely to close a deal with any other house seller. How is the amount of earnest money decided upon? The percentage of the total amount that can be taken as earnest money varies from state to state as policies are different. Additionally, the market scenario is also a major factor affecting the amount of earnest money to be paid. Under normal conditions, 1-2% of the total sale value can be taken as earnest money. However, if the market does not have a high demand for houses, then the percentage charged as earnest money could be lower around 1%. In markets with high demand, this percentage could be as high as 3%, or even 5%. To outbid other buyers, one can pay a larger sum of money as earnest money. This would increase the buyer’s chances of securing the property. Why is earnest money important? Earnest money may not always be mandated by the seller, but in a highly competitive market earnest money may be necessarily required. Paying the earnest money makes the agreement official. Without earnest money, the deal may not be considered official in many regions. It is one of the four stages of payment while making a deal on a house. However, in certain instances, even after the payment of the earnest money, the deal may not materialize. Typically, a buying agent should be able to assist the buyer in such a case. What conditions must be met for earnest money to be refundable? Earnest money has certain contingencies attached to it for the protection of both the seller and the buyer. Even after the seller has accepted the earnest money deposit, there are certain contingencies that must be met before the deal can be finalized. These include the following: Home inspection contingency: This contingency is placed so that buyers can back out of the agreement in case the there are some faults in the property, and it is in need of repair. However, it is not necessary for the buyer to call off the deal in such a case. He can simply work with the seller to reach a mutual decision rather than scraping away the deal completely. Financing Contingency: It might be the case that a buyer had not been approved for a mortgage before making the earnest deposit. Here the financing contingency would protect the buyer. If the mortgage does not get approved even though the earnest money had been paid, then the financing contingency allows the buyer to walk away from the deal along with the refunded earnest money. Appraisal Contingency: This protects the buyer in case the property has been overvalued. Here the lender can hire a third-party investigator who can examine whether the property has been priced at a fair value or not. If the value of the house comes out to be higher than the fair value, then the buyer can walk away with a refund. Additionally, this contingency can be used to bring down the price of the sale too. Contingency for Selling the Existing home: It is quite possible that contracts are made based on whether the buyer can sell an existing home or not. If the buyer is unable to sell the existing home, then he can walk away with a refund. These contingencies can be waived by the buyer in case he is sure that the deal would close and there would be no backing off. However, it is important to note that contingencies can provide an extra cushion against adverse circumstances and they might come in handy in certain cases. What is the difference between earnest money and good faith deposit? Both terms can be used interchangeably. However, all good faith deposits are not the same as earnest money. A good faith deposit can be made directly to the mortgage lender, while earnest money is usually held in an escrow account. Both serve the purpose if providing a sense of security about the buyer sticking to the same deal and not going elsewhere. The good faith deposit eventually forms a part of the lending process. However, in case the deal does not materialize, it is possible that the borrower would not get his good faith deposit back.