Insured Mortgage Defaults Up 47 Percent: Report

Defaults on privately insured U.S. mortgages fell nearly 16 percent in February from the month before, but were up 47 percent from one year ago — and figuring out what that really means is next to impossible, given the data. That’s the key takeaway from data released Tuesday morning by the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, or MICA, which said that 89,722 insured borrowers were 60 or more days in arrears at the end of February, compared to 60,911 one year earlier. February’s totals were well below the 106,484 defaults recorded in January, the highest level recorded by the MI trade group. But making sense of the delinquency data? Good luck. In April 2008, MICA said it saw a sharp increase in reported defaults after a large lender changed how it reported delinquency statistics — the group never identified the lender, largely believed to be Countrywide, nor has the group specified the impact of the reporting change on prior numbers. In July 2008, Triad Guaranty Corp. [{TGIC]] quit reporting its statistics to MICA after the company went into portfolio run-off, and in December 2008, Radian Group Inc. (RDN) — which had not earlier participated in shared reporting of data to MICA — began reporting data on its operations. Which means, in a nutshell, that a 47 percent increase year-over-year seems to suggest that overall delinquencies are increasing; but by how much is anyone’s guess, given reporting changes, additions and losses of reporting entities that all have had a material impact upon reported statistics. Feburary’s cure rate — the number of delinquent loans modified or otherwise put into a workout plan — was 75.5 percent, up sharply from 48 percent in January 2009, but slightly below the 78.7 rate booked in February 2008. Demand for new mortgage insurance fell slightly between January and Febuary, from 76,130 applications received to 73,109. That total is well below the 152,786 applications received one year earlier. Despite declining applications, primary insurance in force remained mostly flat in Febuary, MICA said. Write to Paul Jackson at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments.

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