Sterne Agee: Investors need to reset expectations for mortgage business

|By:, SA News Editor

"We have two takeaways from the quarter and both are negative," says Sterne Agee of the mortgage finance and servicing sector:

1) The land grab is coming to an end, i.e. the easy money (for servicers) from buying MSRs being unloaded by the banks is about done. While regulators want more MSRs out of the banking system, this must be balanced against the GSEs which may be slowing down the approval process as they question the transfer of servicing rights from banks to nonbanks.

2) HARP margins are down more than expected and the pipeline of future volumes is slowing.

Already taking a hit amid disappointing earnings were OCN, NSM, WAC, PMT, WD, and NRZ. "We think it will take two to five days for investors to readjust to the quarter's disappointing news and then investors will need to take a more realistic, long-term view," says the team, which, nevertheless, upgrades Two Harbors (TWO -2.7%) to Buy because of its new mortgage servicing investment.

Also of interest are the single-family rental shops, SBY, AMH, ARPI amid Blackstone's successful rental securitization. High leverage combined with this new low cost of funds could make for some "exceptionally high" return on equity.