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Granite crumbles

Standard & Poor’s dropped a minor bombshell last night when it placed over 100 bonds issued by Northern Rock’s mortgage funding vehicle Granite on creditwatch negative.

Of course the rating actions are lagging the market and a lot of pain is already priced into the bonds. Some of Granite’s mezzanine BBB bonds are trading below 20 pence on the pound.

Nonetheless, there will be some psychological damage to the market if a large UK prime mortgage-backed issuer is severely downgraded. It certainly won’t do anything to help revive the primary market for UK RMBS, which some hope is set for a comeback. The good news is that so far the AAA rated bonds have not been placed on watch.

There’s little cheer to be found in S&P’s statement on the rating actions, which casts doubt over recent signs of recovery in the mortgage market, including house prices rises.

from Neil Unmack:

UK mortgage debt: remain calm! All is well!

That's the message given by Moody's today on the resilience of UK mortgage-backed securities to the current downturn. The survey is based on so-called master trusts, a kind of securitization vehicle first applied to U.K. mortgages about a decade ago which quickly became the most efficient way for a large bank to securitize home loans. The master trusts grew so big that they now finance about a fifth of all UK home loans (although a large chunk of this must have been from deals issued by banks after the credit crisis to use as collateral for borrowing with the central banks).

Master trust bonds haven't been immune to the credit crisis. Forced selling by SIVs and funds caused yields on AAA master trust securities to gap out sharply from their low of around a tenth of a percentage point over Libor. Spreads have rallied in recent months, but they are still around 2 percentage points over Libor, largely because many asset managers simply won't touch illiquid asset-backed debt, even if the returns are much higher than equivalent corporate bonds.