mREIT Update – High Yield and a Special Dividend

Investors have long been attracted to the high yields of mortgage REITs, which currently averages around 13 percent, nearly 7 times the average dividend yield of the S&P 500. The Fed’s announcement has caused drops in spreads, bond yields and homeowner’s borrowing costs, and as a result company’s earnings and dividends have been under pressure.

This will have a big impact on reinvestment for mREITs with low prepay protection.  November’s prepayment report showed a decline in overall prepayment speeds, but lower coupon speeds increased in the month. We continue to favor the mortgage REITs with prepay protected portfolios as they will have more stable cash flows from lower reinvestment needs. AGNC, AMTG, ARR, IVR, MTGE, and TWO have the lowest and most stable prepays in the sector.

Prepayment speeds on 30-year conventional speeds decreased 8% in November from the prior month, which was generally in line with expectations. Speeds on 3.5s rebounded potentially attributable to accelerated closing ahead of g-fee increases, rate relocks post September QE3 rally and closing delays due to Super Storm Sandy. The increase in 15-year speeds was in line with expectations.

The mortgage REITs are currently at a 7% discount to estimated fourth quarter book value and yielding 13.2%. Agency-only mortgage REITs are trading at a 7% discount to the hybrid peers.

While we continue to prefer the flexibility that hybrids have to invest across the entire mortgage universe, we see the Agency-only REITs offering better relative value today given the valuation discount. Trading at a discount to book value AGNC is our top pick; CYS and ARR also provide attractive relative value given current discounts to book.

The Board of Directors of CYS Investments, Inc. (CYS) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.40 per share of common stock for the fourth quarter of 2012, as well as a special dividend of $0.52 per share of common stock. The Company is making the special dividend to distribute the remaining REIT taxable income earned during 2012. These dividends will be paid on December 28, 2012 to common stock stockholders of record on December 21, 2012.  The company currently pays an annual dividend of$1.60 per share for a yield of around 12.3%.  CYS is trading at 87% of estimated book value.

American Capital Agency Corporation (AGNC) pays an annual dividend of five dollars per share for a yield of around 16.2%. The company invests in residential mortgage pass-through securities and collateralized mortgage obligations for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by government-sponsored entities or by the United States government agency.  AGNC is trading at 95% of estimated book value.  American Capital Agency Corp. announced that its Board of Directors has authorized the repurchase of up to $500 million of its outstanding shares of common stock through December 31, 2013.

ARMOUR Residential REIT (ARR) invests primarily in residential mortgage backed securities issued or guaranteed by a United States Government-chartered entity, such as the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or guaranteed by the Government National Mortgage Administration, a United States Government corporation (Ginnie Mae). The company currently pays an annual dividend of$1.08 per share for a yield of around 15.5%.  ARR is trading at 91% of estimated book value.