The last thing new borrowers and their bankers want to see is higher interest rates. Bad news: Refinancing to avoid foreclosure is getting even more difficult.
On Thursday, the yield on 10-year U.S. government debt reached the pinnacle of a three-month, 94-basis-point rise. This benchmark closing at 4.2108% is up 17 basis points for the week and at its highest level this year. A basis point is 1/100th of a percentage point.
The elevated interest rates are not good for stocks, especially the financials. While the
slipped 4.53% for the five trading days ending Thursday, June 12, the Dow Jones U.S. Financial Sector index dropped 7.14%.
When that financial-sector index, with about 250 members, is compared to the KBW Bank Index of 24 national money center banks and large regional institutions, we can focus in on the problem. The KBW Bank Index was nearly decimated, at -9.37% for the period, knifing down to its lowest level since October 2002.
Excluding the funds selling short the sector, the average financial fund we track lost 6.74% this week.
The Mortgage Bankers Association characterized pending foreclosures as being at the worst level in 30 years. Mortgage Insurance Companies of America witnessed two borrowers becoming delinquent for each one catching up on payments in April.
RealtyTrac estimated that one out of every 483 U.S. homes are in foreclosure. Plus, the level of foreclosures was 48.3% higher in May 2008 than the year-ago figure. In Florida, 1 in 228 households entered foreclosure in May, a rate only exceeded by 1 in 201 from Arizona, 1 in 183 in California, and worst of all, 1 in 118 in Nevada.
Today's report of the consumer price index rising 0.6% for the month of May to a year-over-year reading of 4.2%, nearly half of which is food and energy, further strains tight household budgets. To make matters worse, the U.S. Labor Department's unemployment rate popped up to 5.5% from 5% last month.
The worst performing fund this week is the
Ultra Financials ProShares
, down 13.72%. The fund is 200% leveraged to the Dow Jones U.S. Financials Index, while the third-place
ProFunds Financials UltraSector ProFund
lost 10.53% being 150% leveraged to the same index.
No index member fell more than
, plunging 34.71%. KeyCorp cut its dividend -- the first cut after 43 consecutive years of increases.
The next two largest losses, of 26.47% and 23.64%, came from
MGIC Investment Corp
, the biggest U.S. mortgage insurer, and
( PMI), the largest bond insurer, on downgrades from Fitch. Financial guarantors, as a subgroup of financial insurance stocks within the index, fell an average of 17.37%, more than any other subgroup.
The second-worst-performing fund,
ProFunds Banks UltraSector ProFund
, lost 12.54% for the period under review.
The fund allocation is 65.9% banks, including 14.1%
Bank of America
, and 29.4% diversified financial service companies including 11.4%
On top of a loss in KeyCorp, this 150% Dow Jones U.S. Banks Index leveraged fund lost 24.47% in
( FED), 23.24% in
Citizens Republic Bancorp
( CRBC) and 22.88% in
The Citizens Republic loss came on the completion of a dilutive share offering. The WaMu fall coincided with UBS analyst Eric Wasserstrom's prediction of cumulative mortgage loan losses for the next three years, exceeding the high side of company estimates, pushing back a return to "profitability until 2010 or later."
Excluding the one unrated fund, all of the funds on our worst-performing list have ratings of D+ or lower, signifying a recommendation of sell.
The only financial fund we track with a positive return this week is the
UltraShort Financials ProShares
, up 14.01% with 200% negative leverage to the Dow Jones U.S. Financials Index.
The fund losing the least was the
Royce Financial Services Fund
, off just 2.70%. The fund's best holding was
Hilb Rogal & Hobbs
( HRH), popping 40.62% this week on a $2.1 billion buyout of this insurance broker from the Willis Group that may signal the beginning of increased merger and acquisition activity within the sector.
For more on the banking industry, check out these
by TheStreet.com Ratings' Bank Analyst Philip van Doorn.
For an explanation of our ratings,
Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.