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LEND - $47.45 - Accredited Home Lenders ** Stop Loss $52 **

LEND is a sub-prime mortgage lender. Another way to put that would be to say they lend money to those with weak credit. If the housing market is really slowing and housing values declining then sub-prime lenders could be in trouble.

We have already seen mortgage application rates sink to levels not seen since 2004. The Mortgage Application Index decreased to 545.9 last week, -17% below the level from just four weeks ago and more than 10% below the same period in 2004. Refinancing has fallen to levels -20% below 2004 levels.

The days of the mortgage-refi to get out of debt are gone. Tighter loan restrictions and higher default rates are commonplace across the country. I have a son in the mortgage business and he claims applications have fallen through the floor and restrictions are rising. Borrowers who refied a year ago can't get an approval today despite substantial equity left in their homes.

Option loans, where the lender gives the borrower a smaller payment for the first 2-3 years have evaporated. Even ARM loans are falling, down -4% in the latest numbers.

Ironically Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raised the limits for conforming loans by +16% as of Jan-1st. This means the conforming loan limit for a single-family property rose from $359,650 in 2005 to $417,000 as of Jan-1st. This should increase the level of loans except that property values are slowing and credit criteria is rising.

The Mortgage Bankers Association expects loan originations to fall by -18.6% in 2006.

In October National City said loan profits fell -91% over the same period a year earlier. H&R Block blamed a $86 million loss on a drop in income from its mortgage unit.

If this trend continues sub-prime lenders may have to set aside more money as reserves to cover defaults at a time when loan initiation profits are also shrinking. The smaller pie available to all lenders is making competition for loans even more cutthroat. Many lenders MUST do loans to survive and they will be forced to take lesser credits, greater risks and receive less income for those risks.

Lenders are already slashing staff in an effort to maintain profitability.

LEND published an earnings outlook on Dec-19th for Q4. They said they expected to earn $7.70 to $8 per share compared to analysts estimates of $7.74. HOWEVER, Accredited Chairman and Chief Executive James Konrath said that the projected earnings target depends largely on pricing in the nonprime mortgage market and assumes growth in loan originations but lower costs of origination. That is a very big IF. I could make a million dollars next month if I could pick the exact top in January and then short 1000 SPX futures contracts. That is not going to happen. LEND may reach its targets but there is still trouble ahead.

I am only using a June Put option on this play despite LEAPS being available. All lenders will see a spike in loans in April/May as the summer selling season arrives. I would like to be out by then.


Company Info:

Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co. (Accredited) engages in the business of originating, financing, securitizing, selling and servicing non-prime mortgage loans secured by residential real estate in the United States. Accredited focuses on borrowers who may not meet conforming underwriting guidelines because of higher loan-to-value ratios, the nature or absence of income documentation, limited credit histories, high levels of consumer debt, or past credit difficulties. The Company originates loans primarily based upon the borrower's willingness and ability to repay the loan and the adequacy of the collateral. Accredited originates its loans primarily through independent mortgage brokers across the United States and, to a lesser extent, through its direct sales force in its retail offices.

Buy June $45 Put QFW-RI currently $4.70

No Insurance: LEND hit an all time high in December at $51.70. I put the stop just over that high.

Entry $47.45 (01/08)

 

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