Obama's Mortgage Fix Is Weak Medicine (Update1)
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A stalled mortgage market continues to weigh on housing despite efforts by the Obama adminstration to address the situation, though reform efforts could ramp up earnings at several banks including Bank of America, according to a pair of analyst reports.
A report from Creditsights Friday cast a skeptical eye on Obama's reform efforts.
"Recent programs have failed to access a large portion of the population that was targeted, leaving individuals struggling to remain current while peers in similar situations are provided with alternatives. Recent changes aim to ease some of these delays, but without taking a case-by-case basis, many individuals will continue to be left out while others will be included who may not have been an intended target," the report states.
Creditsights analysts argue changes to government mortgage programs known as HAMP and HARP "will fall short of the intended impact and fail to make a real dent in the massive supply of distressed homes in the market."
For example, some of the changes outlined by President Obama to the HARP program would be funded by the proposed $61 billion Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee in the president's budget. The fee is seen as having essentially no chance of passing Congress.
As for another policy that would encourage investors to buy up properties seized by banks and convert them to rentals, Creditsights sees "extensive logistical concerns that have yet to be solved."
A report from FBR Capital Markets argues changes to HARP will increase volumes enough to impact bank earnings, however.
"Conversations with mortgage banks and industry contacts have led us to believe that HARP 2.0 is exceeding most expectations," the report states.
FBR analysts believe the new program "could increase refinancings by between $140 billion and $200 billion, to approximately $1.1 trillion to $1.2 trillion, with most of the increased volume occurring in" the second half of the year. They expect beneficiaries to include Wells Fargo (WFC) ,Bank of America (BAC) JPMorgan Chase (JPM) PNC Financial (PNC) US Bancorp (USB) Fifth Third Bancorpl (FITB) and Flagstar Bancorp (FBC) , giving those banks "a tailwind to non-interest income through 2012."
During Bank of America's fourth quarter earnings call on Jan. 19, Bank of America CFO Bruce Thompson said "net interest income will remain somewhat challenged" during 2012 "and will be highly dependent on the rate environment."
He added the bank expects consumer loans "to continue to run off," however, he said that trend "should be somewhat mitigated by loan growth in our Commercial businesses."
Bank of America posted $11 billion in net interest income during the fourth quarter, up $220 million from the third quarter.