This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Bank Stock Housing Bubble May Be Bursting Again: Street Whispers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The bank stock rally was good while it lasted. The question is whether mortgage lending can continue to fuel earning growth expectations, as Wall Street based earnings remain muted. There's reason to be cautious.

This week, the MBA Mortgage Applications index showed a sharp week-over-week decline, punctuated by a 4.3% fall in the Market Index and a 5.7% drop in the Refinance Index. Compared with year-ago-levels the indices were up by over 20%. "This was the fourth consecutive week of declining refi activity," wrote KBW analyst Bose George, in a Thursday note to clients.

"We believe that the decline in the refi index over the past four weeks highlights that organic refinance volume could be vulnerable if rates trend up," added George, who notes that HARP volumes are less rate sensitive and that a drop in rates could reverse the slowdown.

Without trying to time trends or when the music will stop on HARP refinancing, investors should pay attention to underlying trends. While weekly data shows refinancing is up nearly 30% compared with year-ago levels that compares poorly with 75.9% rise year-to-date.

For the nation's largest mortgage lenders like Wells Fargo (WFC), recent refinancing and interest rate data is tempering earnings expectations. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher Mutascio recently cut estimates on Wells Fargo's mortgage origination revenue from abnormal second quarter levels to what investors should expect in a normal housing environment.

"We cut the company's 2Q12 mortgage origination activity by 40% from $131 billion to $78.6 billion, which we believe represents a more sustainable level of quarterly production for the company that maintains over 30% of the country's mortgage origination market share," wrote Mutascio, in an Aug 8 note. Mutascio also cut Wells Fargo's expected gain on sale margin from 2.20% to 1.50%, but highlighted increasing margins for mortgage servicing.

"We believe the potential/eventual decrease in mortgage banking production and lower gain on sale margins is very manageable with higher servicing income, lower provisioning for loan repurchases, lower compensation expense, lower foreclosed property expense and lower operating losses providing substantial, if not complete, offsets," added Mutascio.

While the report states 2012 and 2013 earnings per share estimates for Wells Fargo may hold, it also is a clear signal that the booming mortgage market shouldn't be counted on as a durable source of earnings growth for large cap banks.

In fact, Fred Cannon of KBW is pessimistic about the mortgage market over the long haul, as refinancing can't offset a still weak housing market.

In contrast to the Treasury's growing success in HARP, "booming refinancing at lower interest rates, mortgage principal reductions outside of foreclosure and short sales remain elusive, however, as evidenced by recent disagreement on principal reductions between the FHFA and Treasury Department," he writes.

As bank investors brace for the second half of 2012 and a fresh start in 2013, there is good reason to be skeptical whether mortgage refinancing is a long-term growth area.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,051.73 -48.45 -0.28%
S&P 500 1,973.63 -4.59 -0.23%
NASDAQ 4,424.7040 -7.4420 -0.17%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto
Advertising Partners

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs