Mortgage Backed Securities and the Covid-19 Pandemic
In April 2020, global financial markets were still reeling as the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the world. Global equity markets had initially fallen by 30% in response to the pandemic, and high-yield credit markets had dropped by nearly 20%. In contrast, U.S. Treasury markets were up 20% year-to-date (YTD). Interestingly, the U.S. Mortgage Backed Security (MBS) market had been much less responsive to the health crisis, exhibiting very low volatility throughout this period and returning about 2% YTD. Maya Russell, head of asset allocation research at a large global institutional investor, must make a recommendation on whether her fund's board should invest in MBS, and if so, whether this is a good time for the fund to implement the allocation and whether it should do so pursuing an active or a passive investment approach. This case covers a wide range of topics in fixed-income investing, including duration and interest rate risk, prepayment risk, mortgage securitization, and the design of mortgage-backed securities. These concepts are analyzed from the perspectives of both individual and professional investors in fixed-income and mortgage markets.