Several high-flying mortgage stocks tumbled Monday after downgrades by two prominent analysts.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Countrywide Credit Industries have gained as much as they can from the current refinancing wave and will now see more modest growth, said David S. Dusenbury of Credit Suisse First Boston.
Following his downgrades to "hold" from "buy," Fannie Mae shares fell $1.75, to $54.6875, Freddie Mac was down $1.0265 to $41.75, and Countrywide dropped 50 cents, to $42.1875.
Another segment linked to the mortgage industry - real estate investment trusts that invest heavily in adjustable rate residential mortgages - also dropped Monday after downgrades by Gary Gordon of PaineWebber Inc.
Shares of Capstead Mortgage Corp. dropped $1.4375, to $23.75 and Thornburg Asset Mortgage Corp. dipped $1.3125, to $18.9375 after readjustments to "neutral" from "attractive." American Residential Investment Trust was off 37.5 cents, $13.8125 after Mr. Gordon lowered his expectations to "attractive" from "buy." Mr. Gordon left untouched his ratings on real estate trusts that have modest exposure to residential rates or that focus on commercial mortgage investments.
Mr. Dusenbury said for the time being, "the market has fully recognized the growth prospects" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy mortgages from lenders, and Countrywide, which delivers the loans.
He said he would restore higher ratings if the shares drop 10% to 15%, or if the current refinancing wave heightens. Though refinance activity has expanded significantly since the beginning of 1997, demand is still well below the highs of 1992 and 1993.
Mr. Gordon is not bearish about companies like Fannie Mae and Countrywide that derive most of their income from fixed rate mortgages. He maintains "attractive" ratings for the companies.
"Although at these prices it's hard to say 'Let's go,' they still have very strong stories," Mr. Gordon said.
That is because these companies, unlike the Reits he downgraded, are not nearly as vulnerable to anticipated long-term rate shifts that will increase adjustable rate mortgage prepayments and decrease originations of this type of mortgage.
Some analysts remain flat-out bullish. The mortgage business is enjoying both solid consumer demand and lower interest rates, and will do so for the foreseeable future, said E. Gareth Plank of UBS Securities. "Why downgrade a stock when it's the best of both worlds?"
Resource Bancshares Mortgage Group, a smaller mortgage company, continues to appeal to analysts looking for a way to cash in on the refinance boom. Shares were up 37.5 cents, to $14.625, on Monday. (See story on page 10.)