Treasury Department will begin unloading its $142 billion stash of mortgage-backed securities in an “orderly wind down” beginning this month, which raises an interesting question: Will these sales shed any light on the valuations of MBS that commercial banks are still sitting on?
Banks have not been eager sellers of their inventory of troubled MBS and other non-performing real-estate loans, as bids for the stuff have generally been well below what the banks are willing to accept. And as long as FASB isn’t forcing banks to mark these securities to market, then there’s no strong incentive to sell.
But the Treasury has incentive to sell, noting in its Q&A on the wind-down that its “mission does not typically include managing a large mortgage portfolio.” At least Treasury’s willing to admit it now. The Fed hasn’t yet reached that conclusion.
As of now, Treasury plans to sell $10 billion in MBS per month until it’s all gone, but could suspend sales “if market conditions become less favorable.” Any suspensions or slow pace of sales should offer some gauge on whether bidders continue to low ball, or if Treasury — like banks — is still asking too high a price for the debt.
Treasury says it’ll post its portfolio holdings at the end of each month, including any sales that were completed, broken down by coupon and agency here.