ARM Resets: Tsunami Ahead

Last year, everyone was worried that the resets on subprime loans would force borrowers into higher interest rates and payments. This element of the housing slide and credit crunch has subsided a bit. Akiva Dickstein, Managing Director of Fixed Income Research at Merrill Lynch explained, "Subprime and ARMs have become less of a problem recently because short rates have come down so much. If the Fed decides to raise rates the issue will return. However, even without reset difficulties, subprime and Alt-A loans are slipping into default at very high rates. The concern about future resets has given way to concern about borrowers equity erosion."

However, the Option ARMs and Interest Only (IOs) loans scheduled to reset in the next few years will add more trouble. These loans represent about 15% of securitized loans and some have negatively amortized, increasing the payments and making refinancing more difficult. According to data from Barclay's, about $300 billion in option ARMs and $820 billion in IO's are set to recast. The results could be payment shocks over 80% for option ARMs and over 60% for IOs according to Barclay's.