Friday, March 24, 2017

Subservicing, Experian Fined by CFPB; Jumbo Program News, lender and Agency Technology Updates

(Thanks to Thomas A. for this one.)
This is something all 70+ year old's, or close to, can look forward to and is something that happened in an Aged Care Center.
The people who lived there have small apartments but they all eat at a central cafeteria.
One morning, one of the residents didn't show up for breakfast so my friend went upstairs and knocked on his door to see if everything was OK. She could hear him through the door. He said that he was running late, and would be down shortly, so she went back to the dining area.
An hour later, he still hadn't arrived so she went back up towards his room and she found him on the stairs. He was coming down the stairs but was having a hell of time. He had a death grip on the hand rail and seemed to have trouble getting his legs to work right.
She told him she was going to call an ambulance but he told her no, he wasn't in any pain, and just wanted to have his breakfast. So she helped him the rest of the way down the stairs and he had his breakfast
When he tried to return to his room he was completely unable to get up even the first step so they called an ambulance for him.
A couple hours later she called the hospital to see how he was doing. The receptionist there said he was fine, he just had both of his legs in one leg of his boxer shorts
Let's end the week by me stating that I will never be pregnant. But if I was, I don't think I'd want my labor streamed around the world. But such is the plight of April the Giraffe, sponsored by Toys R Us.
Today, choosing the right sub servicer is more difficult than ever.  Adding to the complexity of that choice, is the fact that some of the firms traditionally providing sub servicing may be under tremendous financial pressures limiting their abilities to continue as going concerns or at a minimum curtailing their operational capabilities to afford proper levels of customer and client service.  A company's financial wherewithal is fast becoming a prominent part of the diligence guiding the right sub servicer choice. RoundPoint is a strong financial institution and a great choice on all fronts as a sub servicer.  For complete information on RoundPoint's sub servicing, please contact Allen Price at 704.426.8846.
 Banks supported by the Embrace Home Loan's operational fulfilment services program last year enjoyed 3-times industry average growth rates! Optimizing Embrace's technology and talent, each bank differentiated themselves in their markets by the exceptional experiences created for their loan officers, referral partners and customers. Buoyed by these record performances, and now the support system needed to compete, each bank is eager to grow their sales teams in 2017 - and so is Embrace. Up to now, all banks supported have come to Embrace via Embrace is looking for a seasoned sales professional, with a demonstrated history of presenting outsource solutions to C-level bank executives. Embrace is licensed nationally, and thus this position can reside anywhere. Interested candidates should contact Derek Lombard, Director of HR (800.333.3004 x3097).
 Upcoming events
 MBA Education is hosting a webinar on March 28th to review the OCC's special purpose national bank charter and its potential impact on mortgage lenders.  This special purpose charter could be an attractive option for residential mortgage lenders who would benefit from a more streamlined supervisory and examination regime, exportation of interest rates and certain fees, and preemption of certain state lending requirements, including licensing. Attendees can expect to learn how the charter can help lower compliance costs, how to begin preparing an application and business plan, and how the new administration and regulators may impact the charter. This webinar is complimentary to MBA members; click here to register.
 If you're interested in, "Attracting Millennial Buyers: Insights For Mortgage Lenders," Erin Lantz, VP & GM of Mortgages at Zillow Group is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, March 29th, at 2PM ET/11AM PT. Register here.
 Hey, if you're in Southern California on Tuesday night, April 11, the North San Diego County Escrow Association and Notary Near You are hosting "Bring Your Favorite Real Estate or Mortgage Broker to Dinner." Cocktails at 5:30, dinner at 6:15 at the Shadow Ridge Country Club in Vista, and yours truly will be speaking afterward. Please contact Tracie Gressmen for more details and registration.
 In legal news...
 Experian, one of the nation's three major credit reporting bureaus, misled consumers by telling them that the credit scores they purchased from the company were the same ones that lenders used to make credit decisions, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said yesterday. And for that deception, the CFPB is fining Experian $3 million. Peers Equifax and Transunion reached a settlement on similar allegations in January.
 Jay Clayton, President Donald Trump's nominee to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said the Dodd-Frank Act should be looked at to see if its objectives are being achieved, but he doesn't have "specific plans for attack" against the law. The SEC should continue its work on rules mandated by Dodd-Frank that haven't yet been completed, he said.
 Technology & system updates? Yup!
 Gibran Nicholas, CEO of CMPS Institute and creator of the CMPS Platform recently wrote a white paper called How Technology Changes the Game for Mortgage Lead Conversion. I was astonished that a 1% uptick in lead conversion rates has a whopping $450,000 impact on annual profitability per 100 loan officers. Conversely, a 1% decrease in lead conversion rates carries an annual cost of $450,000 per 100 loan officers to your company's bottom line. Click here to download the white paper.  Reach out directly to if you're interested in meeting up with him at MBA technology conference next week.
 The FHFA released an update on the implementation of the CSP and SS for the GSEs. Release 2 now calls for the SS to be introduced during Q2 2019 vs. what was initially expected to be during 2018 due to more time needed "for the development, testing, validation of controls, and governance processes necessary to have the highest level of confidence that the implementation will be both smooth and successful."
 C.L.A. Title has a new free online quoting calculator. Give it a try.
 loanDepot, launched its proprietary digital lending platform (DLP), part of an $80 million investment in technology over the last 18 months. The first three proprietary technology solutions comprising loanDepot's DLP, appropriately named mello™ includes an intuitive web-based consumer portal, a state-of-the-art mobile point of sale system, and a fully digital mortgage loan application experience. These solutions will be seamlessly integrated with the company's scalable web-based loan origination system (LOS), accessible to consumers and lending professionals via collaborative dashboards from mobile or desk top devices. loanDepot's mello™ exists within a larger fintech ecosystem boosted with the integration of digital marketing tools and by third-party data enrichment that ensure greater accuracy, speed and certainty throughout the origination experience. mello™ will evolve loan origination to become a fully digital practice on a massive scale that intuitively becomes a faster, easier, and more accurate experience with greater certainty.
 Pacific Union announced that FlexKey - Expanded and FlexKey - Restart have been combined into a single Program Guide as part of a redesign effort to promote better functionality for determining FlexKey eligibility and remove duplicate policies. A new FlexKey Credit Grade Calculator has been developed to assist in determining the credit grade for a loan scenario.
To streamline and expedite the Credit Review process, Pacific Union will soon be changing the way that non-delegated correspondents upload credit packages. Rather than submitting a single credit package as one bulk upload, new functionality will allow users to upload documents contained in the Credit Package by document type. To watch a quick video and learn more about this pending enhancement, click here
 Jumbo news                                                                           
 One way to obtain leads is through advertising, right? How about this Redwood Trust ad for its 90% LTV jumbo product?
 Caliber Home Loans has expanded its Jumbo product. Highlights include lowered FICO and 90% LTV with no MI. Jumbo pricing has been improved by at least 50 BPS and there are new enhanced guidelines on its Caliber Jumbo Fixed and ARM programs.
 Plaza's Jumbo Programs have specific appraisal ordering requirements. Appraisals for Plaza's Jumbo program MUST be ordered by selecting the Jumbo loan type in the appraisal order screen; do not select Conventional when ordering a Jumbo appraisal. If Jumbo is not selected, the appraisal will not be ordered correctly.
 Capital Markets
 The story in the markets is that stocks and bonds may be giving back the Trump reflation trade, where bonds sold off and stocks rallied on the prospect of fiscal stimulus out of Washington. Donald Trump is getting a lesson in the limitations of the bully pulpit as health care reform is tougher than he thought. Repealing and replacing Obamacare is the "pay for" for fiscal stimulus and tax reform, so if it doesn't happen then part of the basis for the post-Trump stock market rally is in jeopardy. 
 Health care reform's vote was delayed yesterday, but is supposed to go to the House today. If it passes, that might be good for stocks and bad for bonds. If it fails, it is bad for stocks and good for bonds (in other words, if it fails, interest rates are probably heading lower). The months-long equity rally has been based largely on improved nominal growth and anticipation of US tax reform and both those underpinnings are still in place.
 Certainly interest rates are almost an afterthought with other news grabbing attention: stocks trading in positive territory, an AHCA (health care) vote that is now postponed until today or possibly Monday, New Home Sales in February ran at the second-highest seasonally adjusted annual rate since 2007. (February was one of the warmest on record and that should have bolstered new home sales. To keep things in perspective, between 1996 to 2006, new home sales ranged from 714K to 1389K, so the current level is extremely low.)
 The 10-year yield pushed back above 2.40%, with aid of a morning bounce in equities, hitting a high of 2.44% before ending the day at 2.42%. Current coupon agency MBS prices worsened about .125. Today we'll have several Federal Reserve speakers from various districts and with varying topics. Whether they say anything new remains to be seen. Ahead of that jawboning we've had February's Durable Goods orders: +1.7%, higher than forecast. Rates are nearly unchanged with the 10-year at 2.42% and agency MBS prices off a shade.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Correspondent Non-QM, From Apps to Secondary, Soup to Nuts, Vendors are Announcing Changes

Smart a$s answer
A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn't find one big enough for her family.
She asked a stock boy, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?"
The stock boy replied, "No ma'am, they're dead."

Have you been asked to join the Trump Administration's new group focusing on mortgage finance policy? No? My cat Myrtle hasn't gotten the nod (yet) either, but if you want on, you'd better give them a call. Mark Calabria, chief economist to Vice President Mike Pence, said the Trump administration is developing a group to focus on mortgage finance policy. "You will see in a few months a set of principles, and then we'll go from there," Calabria said.
 Verus Mortgage Capital, a leading Non-Agency/Non-QM correspondent investor, continues to see record monthly volumes due to its "expansive product offering and new correspondent sellers joining the platform monthly." "Many companies are looking to Verus and its innovative product offering to offset the impact from higher rates" said Dane Smith President of Verus. In February Verus's affiliate Invictus Capital Partners completed its first rated securitization backed by Non-QM loans acquired by Verus, only the second investor to issue a rated transaction backed by non-prime mortgages following the financial crisis. The pool included loans with alternative documentation sources such as bank statements for self-employed borrowers, consumers with prior credit events, and business purpose loans to investors. Verus Mortgage Capital is adding additional correspondent sales people nationwide to keep up with new client demand" said Smith. If you would like to be part of a fast-growing company that values its employees and is committed to making "common sense loans" please email your resume to Jeff Schaefer, EVP, National Correspondent Sales.
 Vendor mania!
 Let's play catch up on some recent vendor news, especially ahead of the MBA's Tech conference next week.
 PCLender's next generation of servicehas integrated consumer direct, automated workflow, and the agency's new technology suites. PCLender is not only prepared for the new HMDA regulatory changes but also has made dramatic updates to the dashboard reporting functionality and the look and feel of the user interface, creating an intuitive experience to further simplify today's lending complexities for community banks, credit unions and mortgage bankers.
 Indecomm Global Services, a leading provider of business process as a service (BPaaS), software as a service (SaaS) technology, and learning products for the mortgage industry, announced it will be presenting next generation automation technologies in its Kaizen risk management and IncomeGenius income analysis mortgage platforms at the MBA Technology conference next week.
 In a move that will create one of the largest fintech companies in the world, Vista Equity Partners is acquiring software maker D+H and intends to merge it with software maker Misys, the company reports. The combined company will have a global footprint and the broadest set of financial software solutions available on the market, with approximately $2.2 billion in revenues, around 10,000 employees and more than 9,000 customers across 130 countries, including 48 of the top 50 banks, per Vista Equity Partners.
 Ten-year old MountainView Capital Holdings and its subsidiaries are launching a new name and a new look: a new logo, new branding and a new website. Its parent company is now known as MountainView Financial Solutions, LLC. The company has also launched a new, more comprehensive website at MountainView has previously operated under multiple service names, including MountainView Servicing Group, MountainView Capital Group, MountainView Risk Advisors, MountainView IPS, and McGuire Performance Solutions.
 eEndorsements announced the launch of its next generation. eEndorsements 'client review content management system serves the mortgage industry by making it easy to manage client testimonials across the internet. The latest release allows for greater connectivity with back office solutions such as LOS, CRM and Mobile Apps, along with optimized social media automation to spread social proof to new prospective clients. eEndorsements offers individual plans for loan officers as well as enterprise solutions for mortgage companies; visit for your free profile.
Valuation Management Group announced its renewal as a Georgia Bankers Association (GBA) Strategic Partner. Valuation Management Group handles the entire real estate appraisal process. This includes: approving the appraisers, managing the appraiser panel, handling the bid process for complex residential appraisal assignments and commercial appraisal assignments, engaging the appraisers and performing a robust, quality technical appraisal review.
 MetaSource, provider of business process management (BPM), workflow, and compliance solutions, has acquired Dallas-based Orion Financial Group. This acquisition expands and adds depth to its existing lien release offering for its portfolio of solutions. Orion Financial Group has experience providing mortgage assignments, lien releases and document retrieval to mortgage servicers, investors, credit unions, and lenders. 
Vantedge launched its Vantedge Real-Time Predictive Marketing (RPM), a fully managed data-driven marketing service tailored for credit unions. The subscription-based service combines real-time predictive analytics, dynamic campaign management, personalized multi-channel message delivery and ROI measurement with marketing advisory services. Vantedge RPM leverages transactional, lifestyle and other behavioral data as well as predictive modeling to help credit unions truly understand and even anticipate the needs of individual members, serving them highly relevant and personalized advertisements at the precise moment they're considering a purchase.
 Ellie Mae announced the introduction of its Ellie Mae's Encompass Consumer Connect. Delivering a state-of-the-art, completely branded and unique self-service online loan origination experience for homebuyers. Lenders will be able to quickly turn interest into applications by extending their brand to consumers with a fully configurable, drag and drop website builder. Completed applications automatically flow into the loan officer's pipeline within the Encompass mortgage management solution. Incomplete applications can be quickly followed up to gain that borrower's business and extend the relationship and ensure compliance.
 FormFree's automated asset verification service, AccountChek, is now available through Ellie Mae's Encompass Consumer Connect. The integration allows Encompass users to verify and share asset and deposit information with their lenders in seconds without uploading bank statements. AccountChek's cloud-based app securely connects with virtually any financial institution to consolidate, analyze and verify assets and deposits, delivering a safe and hassle-free experience for borrowers and greater purchase certainty for lenders.
 Simplifile's Collaboration and Post Closing services will be available this month through Ellie Mae's Encompass all-in-one mortgage management solution. The seamless integration allows Encompass users to collaborate with settlement agents via Simplifile and work together seamlessly on documents and disclosure data from pre-closing to post closing. Simplifile Collaboration enables lenders to work directly with their settlement agents to share, receive, and validate disclosure data, documents, and transaction details. Simplifile Post Closing provides lenders with real-time updates on the recording status of documents, then closes the loop on the entire mortgage transaction by delivering the final title policy and fee data electronically.
 Lenders One and the Mortgage Bankers Association have formed an alliance that will provide new benefits to both Lenders One and the MBA members. Because of the new agreement, Lenders One members who join the MBA will receive a discount on their first year of MBA membership dues as well as savings on MBA products and services. MBA members will be eligible to join Lenders One and receive a discount on their cooperative dues as well as other benefits.
 Optimal Blue announced a new partnership with Blend, the leading digital mortgage solution, to integrate their pricing engine into Blend's platform. The partnership will allow lenders using both Optimal Blue and Blend to seamlessly access pricing workflows within Blend, making the entire mortgage application process significantly more efficient and transparent.
 Altisource launched noteXchange, a state-of-the-art proprietary mortgage trading platform. noteXchange is a secondary market trading platform that brings buyers and sellers together in a centralized exchange that enables better communications, shorter sales cycles and automated processes with real time pricing data coming from Thomson Reuters.
 Require Holdings, LLC, announced it has completed its acquisition of Deeds on Demand. Deeds on Demand is the first Internet-based deed and real estate document service designed to provide fast, accurate and integrated document preparation services. Deeds on Demand's services will be merged with reQuire Real Estate Solutions, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Require Holdings, that services the title insurance industry.
 eOriginal, Inc. has been selected as the technology solution provider for the Fannie Mae next generation electronic vault (eVault). Fannie Mae is committed to enhancing the digital mortgage revolution and removing obstacles to eMortgage adoption through a modern, secure, and scalable platform. eOriginal's hosted platform enables the secure management of electronically signed assets (eNotes) throughout their post-execution lifecycle. In addition to investing in new eVault infrastructure, Fannie Mae is also simplifying eMortgage adoption by transitioning to the MISMO SMART Doc Version 3.0 format in 2017.
 Stewart Title Insurance, and ClosingCorp, announced that rates and fees from Stewart's nationwide network of Stewart Title offices are now available to lenders through ClosingCorp's SmartFees platform. SmartFees will support, capture and verify title rates and fees from the entire network of Stewart Title offices nationwide, enabling lenders to obtain quotes for loan estimates (LEs) and closings. SmartFees integrates loan file information, transfer tax and recording data, service provider fees from more than 70,000 rate cards, and lender business rules and requirements into a single, seamless process and platform.
 Capital Markets
 Another day, another rally - and yesterday both stock and bond prices improved. The February Existing Home Sales report was the big data release and showed sales declining more than expected on lower inventories. But the median selling price was up 7.7% y/y to $228,400, and the median time on the market was 45 days, down from 59 one year ago. First-time buyers were 32% of sales. The FHFA Housing Price Index was unchanged m/m in January (+5.7% y/y). December's growth was 0.4%.
 Economists and traders are now opining on "bull flattening" - the Fed has raised short term rates yet the long end of the yield curve hasn't moved. The bull flattening of the treasury curve aided lower mortgage rates prices although originator supply was relatively muted with treasuries in rally mode with some hedge adjustments as some commitments are likely to fall out given the recent rate rally. By the time the dust settled the 10-year note had improved more than .250 in price (to yield 2.40%) while 5-year notes and 30-year agency MBS prices improved between .125-.250 depending on coupon and security.
 The big news overnight was reports of a "deal" between Trump/Ryan and the House Freedom Caucus that should help drag the health care bill through the House later today, but in a way that will all but doom it in the Senate. The bigger question remains when will the GOP pivot away from healthcare and address tax reform? This morning we've already had Initial Jobless Claims (+15k to 258k, a 7-week high). Coming up is New Home Sales. The US House of Representatives is also expected to vote on the current GOP proposal to repeal and replace the ACA (aka Obamacare). We commence the day with the 10-year at 2.41% and agency MBS prices a shade down/worse versus Wednesday night.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Free Webinars, More on Zillow, Primer on a Flat Yield Curve, Any Change to the Rating Agency Model?

(Thanks to Larry C. for this oldie but goodie.)
The 50-year-old son takes his 85-year-old dad to Las Vegas to celebrate the father's birthday. 
The son arranges for a gorgeous lady to go to the old man's room. 
She knocks and he opens. 
She is dressed in a coat and nothing else. 
She cries out, "I am here to offer you super sex!"
The old man replies, "I better have the soup, the sex might kill me!"

Who can you trust? Digital Journal reports new malware targets Google Chrome users with a pop up that indicates a new font needs to be installed for websites to load properly. Those who click on it download the malware. We can't even trust the game Monopoly to be...immune from change. Monopoly, apparently thinking that "this will really liven things up & bolster sales," has swapped out three of its game pieces (thimble, boot, wheelbarrow) for three new ones: a rubber duck, a T. rex and a penguin. But really, how often do you need to buy a new Monopoly game?
 Free webinars!
 This year is off to an interesting start. And with the activity going on in Washington, higher interest rates and low listing inventor loan officers are asking ... Will 2017 be a good year for lending? and What initiatives should I take to ensure growth in my business? Join Dave Savage, CEO of Mortgage Coach, and Market Expert Dan Rawitch this Wednesday March 22, at 10am pacific to hear their perspective on interest rates and market opportunity for Spring home buying season. Dan and Dave will offer ideas on the best way to deliver market updates to Realtors to increase referrals and close more loans. Sign up here
 Video marketing has fundamentally changed the way top lenders are deepening relationships with prospects and clients while differentiating themselves from their competitors. Join Total Expert and BombBomb for a free webinar on Tuesday, March 21 at 2pm ET called "Capitalize on Video Marketing." We will cover how lenders are using video marketing to improve lead conversion, build relationships and increase referrals. Participants of this free, 60-minute webinar will walk away with the knowledge of how to lay the groundwork for an enterprise-level video marketing strategy and tactical examples to add video into their day-to-day communications. Seats are limited for this live webinar, so register today.
 There are only 2 days left to register!2017 is the year of mortgage tech integration. Is your LO team ready? Join me on Thursday, March 23rd at 1-2pm ET for my webinar The Future of Mortgage Technology. Loan officers are placing increasing demands on the technologies they rely on to grow their businesses. At the same time, they are experiencing "tool fatigue" as inboxes fill with pitches for products that promise end-to-end nirvana. But most LO's will tell you they don't need new tools, they just want the great platforms they already use to talk to each other. Moderated by tech industry veteran and Floify CMO, Holly Hamann, I'll share insights on how the fusion of mortgage tech will impact LO's, which processes will be affected first, and what new skill sets you'll need on your teams. Register here!
 We all know that the best prospective borrowers to work with are ones that were referred to you from past clients. National Mortgage Professional Magazine is presenting a webinar entitled Driving Referrals to Your Relationship Business on Thursday, March 23 at 2:00 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT. In this complimentary webinar, Dan Hodges, Founder and Chief Strategist of Reach 150 will show you how to make yourself more "refer-able" to your sphere, how to drive a higher volume of referrals from your sphere and the best tips to CLOSE the referrals that you get. Click here to sign up for this complimentary webinar.
 Zillow chatter
 Yesterday the commentary mentioned receiving a note from one industry vet regarding Zillow, the CFPB, CIDs (Civil Investigative Demand), and a UDAAP charge for providing "substantial assistance" in allowing real estate agents/loan officers to knowingly violate RESPA. The opinion note continued:
 "To the best of my understanding Zillow breaks down the % of value lender receives compared to agents by using a five-step calculation approach and assigns a weighting mechanism to it. So, if Zillow says a 50/50 allocation their internal calculations for the Lender's appearance on their Premier Agent website is the fair market value they have internal worksheets which might show that more than 10% of the overall calculation can be assigned to this metric. So, if one LO is paying $100 dollars for the website advertising on a 50/50 split, the internal Zillow numbers say that ALL of the LO's combined shouldn't pay more than $10. Zillow's co-marketing worksheet is something every lender across the US needs to ask for and analyze to ensure the mathematical calculations for fair market valuation. 
 "It is rumored that the Zillow Long Form program (designed for Lenders) is not a target by the CFPB. My compliance person thinks that if the CFPB does go after this type of advertising it could create some significant market disruptions for lending, so I do not see the CFPB coming down on this particular product. Zillow, however, is a licensed real estate brokerage so keep that in mind too. The industry should keep in mind the differences between the two programs (Long Form and the Premier Lender/Premier Agent), and do their own research.
 "Zillow isn't the only one with issues though as Commissions Inc., Boomtown,, and others are also problematic and the regulators know it., for example, only receives money from one party (typically the Lender) in a co-lead share arrangement and then sends the leads to the realtor directly and the realtor is responsible for sending those leads to the LO. As the industry saw in the Prospect case this is out of compliance in the CFPB's eyes from a RESPA perspective as those parties would both need to get leads separately and independently of each other which is why many lenders have pulled out of advertising over the last month. Regulators, including the CFPB, are concerned with real estate lead sharing/advertising portals in the market place in general, and we can all bet that state mortgage regulators have been communicating with each other as well as the CFPB."
 (More notes on the subject this Saturday.)
 Capital Markets
 "Rob, has anything changed regarding the basic rating agency model, where the well-known agencies (Moody's, S&P, Fitch) are paid by the issuer to rate their MBS, and if the issuer doesn't like the rating moves on to another rating agency?" No, it hasn't changed. Don't forget the Moody's settlement - $864 million essentially for not following their own published ratings standards. What has been changing is the loss provisions & credit enhancements. Issuers now are holding back less than they were a couple years ago, with the percentages returning to levels closer to where they were ten years ago, to get deals done. Most agree that credit enhancement levels are still higher than they were pre-crisis, but we're still just a trickle of PL MBS issuance with so many other barriers still in the way.
 Issuers and investors are looking to the Rating Agencies to develop and maintain credit standards across all assets sectors that can be relied upon. A tremendous amount of progress has been made developing those standards and confidence has been restored as a result. As security issuance volume increases, however, there is a growing concern that the Rating Agencies will resort back their post financial crisis ways by focusing on their revenue models and not on their credit models. The return of the Private Label Security market is critical for the non-agency mortgage market to deliver attractive mortgage products and rates to borrowers and provide continuous liquidity outlets for originators, the Rating Agencies play a vital role with this effort.
 Turning to rates, yes, everyone (and their brother) thinks rates are heading higher this year. But even if short term rates head higher, we could still see long term rates not move as much, leading to a flatter yield curve. The "flat yield curve" is a yield curve in which there is little difference between short-term and long-term rates for bonds of the same credit quality. This type of yield curve is often seen during transitions between normal and inverted curves. For us novices, an easy way to think of it is if the Fed raises rates and 30-year mortgage rates don't budge.
 When inflation is less of a concern, causing the spread (difference) between short term rates (less than a year maturity) and long term rates (10 years and beyond) to narrow. A flattening can also occur in anticipation of slower economic growth. And sometimes, the curve flattens when short-term rates rise on the expectation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates - and that is what is happening now.
 And financial markets rarely march steadily in one direction anyway. Yesterday, for example, on a very light-volume day, U.S. Treasury and agency MBS prices traded higher, helped by declines in oil (less inflation) and equity markets helped to support buying of fixed-income assets. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said that three Fed rate hikes in 2017 are "entirely possible" although the final number could be higher or lower depending on the economic outlook. Is this news to anyone? For numbers the 10-year improved .250 in price and ended yielding 2.47%; 5-year Treasuries and MBS prices improved about .125.
 For news today, there is little of consequence although we will see the Q4 current account and the Philadelphia Fed Nonmanufacturing Index. And let's not forget the usual bevvy of Fed speakers. We commence Tuesday with rates slightly higher: the 10-year is yielding 2.49% and agency MBS prices are worse about .125 (depending on coupon) versus last night.