TALF Loans: Real Money

The Fed’s new Term ABS Loan Facility (TALF) announced this week could be a significant step in improving credit availability. While many of the details of the program are not yet known, there is already several take aways.

First, this looks and smells a lot like a back-door way of reviving some of the TARP’s original concept. Consider what we already know about the program. Eligible collateral for the TALF will basically include AAA-rated bonds within the major non-housing ABS sectors: auto loans, student loans, credit cards, and SBA loans. TALF loans will have a one-year term and will be non-recourse to the borrower. The facility appears to be oriented toward banks and insurance companies, but may actually be available to anyone. TALF loans “will no be subject to mark-to-market or re-margining” which is a critical part of the program.

Now put these criteria together and consider the effect. A bank may originate loans of the above types, then get funding from the Fed at an attractive rate. There is no need to worry about the funding being taken away suddenly because of changing haircuts, nor is there any worry about interim marks impacting economic results. The originator does have an incentive to make a good loan, since the Fed is going to require some haircut. But as long as the originator can make good loans, the eventual profit will be the differential between the lending rate and the Fed borrowing rate.

Let’s look at a real life example. COMET 2008-A6 A6 is a credit card ABS issued in May. The original deal spread was +110bps over 1-month LIBOR with a 2.4 year average life. Currently bonds of this type are trading with a spread of around 600bps, which makes the dollar price of this bond around $89.

Analyzing asset-backed bonds gets complicated because bond holders get monthly principal and interest payments. But in simple terms, the bond is yielding LIBOR +600bps. If the Fed is willing to lend at LIBOR +50 or 100bps, banks will quickly gobble up high quality ABS paper. As a result, the yield spread on this kind of ABS will contract until its closer to the Fed’s lending rate. If the COMET bond were to go from LIBOR +600 to LIBOR +300, the bond’s price would appreciate by 5.5 points.

There would be two important knock-on effects. First, it would create a price floor for similar ABS which isn’t pledged into a Fed facility, alleviating mark-to-market problems banks are currently facing. Second, it will allow for new origination in ABS, which will help rejuvenate consumer credit.

The primary beneficiary will be the ABS securities itself. Next would probably be the bigger holders of ABS paper, which include banks and P&C insurers. Companies involved in securitization will also benefit: credit card issuers like Capital One and student lenders like Sallie Mae. There is already talk that this program could be extended to Commercial MBS, which would benefit REITs tremendously.

Disclosure: Long certain ABS as well as Sallie Mae

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