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ARMOUR Residential REIT Inc (ARR) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribers - Feb 18, 2021 at 3:30PM

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ARR earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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ARMOUR Residential REIT Inc (ARR -0.66%)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 18, 2021, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the ARMOUR Residential REIT, Inc. Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

It is now my pleasure to turn the conference over to Jim Mountain, Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

James R. Mountain -- Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary

Thank you, France, and thank you all for joining our call to discuss ARMOUR's fourth quarter 2020 results. This morning, I'm joined by ARMOUR's Co-CEOs, Scott Ulm and Jeff Zimmer; and ARMOUR's Chief Investment Officer, Mark Gruber. By now, everyone has access to ARMOUR's earnings release, which can be found on ARMOUR's website www.armourreit.com, along with our Form 10-K and most recent company update. This conference call may contain statements that are not recitations of historical fact and therefore, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All such forward-looking statements are intended to be subject to the safe harbor protections provided by the Reform Act. Actual outcomes and results could differ materially from the outcomes and results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements due to the impact of many factors beyond the control of ARMOUR. Certain factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements are included in the Risk Factors section of ARMOUR's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Copies of these reports are available on the SEC's website at www.sec.gov. All forward-looking statements included in this conference call are made only as of today's date, and are subject to change without notice. We disclaim any obligation to update our forward-looking statements unless we are required to do so by law. Also our discussion today may include reference to certain non-GAAP measures.

A reconciliation of these measures to our most comparable GAAP measure is included in our earnings release, which can be found on ARMOUR's website. An online replay of this conference call will be available on ARMOUR's website shortly and will continue for one year. U.S. financial markets continued to stabilize and improve during the fourth quarter, and ARMOUR continues to concentrate its portfolio activity in Agency MBS, which we will do for the foreseeable future. Quarter-end book value was $12.32 per common share, up $0.58 from Q3 2020. As of the close of business last Friday, February 12, we estimate book value to be approximately $12.90 per common share ex dividend. ARMOUR's Q4 comprehensive income was $60.2 million or $0.89 per common share. We paid dividends of $0.10 per common share for each month in the fourth quarter for a total of $19.6 million. We've also declared February and March common dividends at the rate of $0.10 per share and Series C preferred stock dividends for Q1 at the rate of $0.14583 per share.

Now let me turn the call over to Co-Chief Executive Officer, Scott Ulm, to discuss ARMOUR's portfolio position and current strategy in a bit more detail. Scott?

Scott J. Ulm -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and Chief Risk Officer

Thanks, Jim, and good morning. The fourth quarter of 2020 provided favorable conditions for mortgage investors and ARMOUR REIT. A one-two punch of fiscal action from Washington and all-out commitment from the Fed to the U.S. Treasury and mortgage-backed securities markets created a wave of liquidity that drove asset spreads significantly tighter in the fourth quarter. The trends have continued into the first quarter of 2021 as markets anticipate a new wave of fiscal stimulus from Congress in the near future. The demand for yield from private investors, combined with the official QE purchases, delivered a strong MBS performance during a period when longer-term treasury yields rose significantly off their 2020 lows. Echoing the positive market sentiment, repo financing also improved over the quarter, dropping from 20 to 25 basis points in the third quarter for 30-day tenors, down to 15 to 20 basis points currently. The flip side of all the good news is that historically low mortgage rates helped create the largest wave of home for loan refinancing since 2003. Faster prepayments at higher prices tampered down new yield opportunities in the market. The TBA dollar roll market remains the most attractive proposition as the Fed's growing footprint in the sector generates significantly higher returns versus those on agency CMBS or specified MBS pools. And we expect the Fed's presence to persist at least for the first half of 2021, if not longer. While we do allocate approximately 36% of our portfolio to dollar rolls in 30-year and 15-year TBAs, 94% of the remaining portfolio are assets with favorable prepayment protection characteristics, including prepayment penalties, lower loan balances and seasoning. Such pools held up very well as expected. The average CPR in our portfolio was 17.3% as of the fourth quarter versus 16% in the third quarter, which were both significantly below the aggregate speeds on more generic MBS. Year-to-date, the portfolio is averaging 17.9% CPR.

Our response to the tighter spread, higher prepayment mortgage environment has been to exercise caution. This is reflected in our implied leverage ratio of 7.7 at the end of the fourth quarter and 6.9 implied leverage ratio currently. These numbers are considerably lower than our historical leverage levels and provide two or more terms of that additional dry powder to take advantage of market opportunities. ARMOUR's duration as of year-end was 0.62 and is currently 0.76. As a result of our early investment in specified pools, the portfolio's convexity profile remains significantly more favorable than that of newly issued MBS. ARMOUR continuously monitors its hedge book and manages the net duration gap within a tight range dictated by the team's outlook on the rates barker. It should be noted that a significant portion of the portfolio's duration is in the key rate buckets of inside three years, where we expect yields to be pegged close to 0 for the foreseeable future. Our exposure to the long end of the curve is considerably less than our overall duration. While we accept the apparent market consensus that the Fed's presence and support for the market is here to stay for a prolonged period, we also have a keen appreciation for the unexpected. We will continue to shape our portfolio to protect book value and will not reach for yield at the expense of much higher risk. This means that metrics like core earnings may trend a bit lower, but should work to optimize total economic return. As we've noted before, we set our dividend policy based on the medium-term outlook on our business. We continue to see our dividend level as appropriate.

James R. Mountain -- Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary

We'd be delighted to take any questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our first question will be from the line of Doug Harter with Credit Suisse. You may go ahead.

Doug Harter -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thanks. And good morning. You mentioned that you kind of brought down leverage to take advantage of potential better opportunities. It seems like the mortgage market this week is starting to give you some of that opportunity. I guess, if you could just talk about, I guess, kind of how you view the opportunity today? And is that enough to start kind of building back the position? Or would you be looking for more volatility and still potentially better entry points?

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

So Doug, this is Jeff. Good morning. In the middle of August, for example had OAS of 83 0 volatility, OAS of 83. On our last earnings call, they have come into 65 when we last spoke to you. And they're at 31 today. I listened to Leon Cooperman this morning being interviewed on Bloomberg News and Leon said about stocks, "I like what I own, but I don't want to buy anymore here." And I think that's the way we feel as well. We like what we own. We've done some selective selling. Thus, you may have heard got as wide as two 50 off Zs and swaps, excuse me. In March, now we're trading in the mid-20s. We've done a little pruning there. Done a little pruning of our 3.5 position where prepayment speeds had gone. So while that the yields on those assets are actually negative, and we've done some pruning in the lower coupon assets as well. We're not in a position to say that we will increase our exposure or our leverage quite yet. We are watching very carefully, and we do think the opportunities will come, and we're going to be patient.

Doug Harter -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Got it. And I guess just philosophically, I guess, how do you kind of weigh the trade-off of potential loss carry by being lower levered versus kind of the potential for book value volatility?

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

So between the beginning of the second quarter of 2013 and the end of the second quarter of 2013, many of the firms in this space lost between 10% and 25% of their book value. And it had exact -- those numbers and reflections of OASs and tightness in demand during that period of time are too dissimilar than what we're seeing today. So I look at ARMOUR, and we sit down in our meetings when we go, "Gosh, book value is up 4.5% so far this quarter and mortgages are really tight. And this looks like another party that got a little sloppy at the end of it, and we're just going to be patient and watch." And we think we'll be better off long-term looking at your book value this period.

James R. Mountain -- Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary

I'd also add that it's relatively often that we find opportunities to create earnings. It might come with some risk that we may or may not like, but opportunities to find earnings are usually there. Opportunities to create book value are more difficult to achieve.

Doug Harter -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Understood. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Trevor Cranston with JMP Securities. Please proceed.

Trevor Cranston -- JMP Securities -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks. Good morning. A follow-up on the question about leverage. Would you guys say at this point that you're finding opportunities to reinvest pay downs? Or given your views on the market, are you sort of letting portfolio runoff not be replaced at this point? And which would imply that leverage may continue to tick down a little bit going forward?

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

Good morning, Trevor. It's Jeffrey. We can invest in $2 and $2.50 rolls and get mid-double digit returns, 12%, 13%, 14% double digit returns. But that comes with a price and the price is these assets are becoming increasingly poor convexity assets. And that's why the TBA market trades at way lower levels in the specified market. There are specified assets now trading at four or five points over TBAs number, about 100 years of experience sitting at this table, and these are new levels stretching that out. So we will selectively add and we have added some dollar rolls over the last quarter when we see some opportunities, but we want to be very cautious of convexity, and that gets back to our point to Doug Harter, that you can blow up a lot of book value by just reaching for a little bit of extra earnings. And at the end of the day, we're better off not reaching and protecting book value. And that's how we will do it in the immediate future. Those earnings opportunities will come. And it's pretty easy to buy $1 billion or $2 billion of them when their opportunities are there. But as Scott just boldly stated, very hard to buy those opportunities to increase book value.

Trevor Cranston -- JMP Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Okay. And then actually, my second question is related to you just commented on the convexity of some investments. How do you guys think about the extension risk within the portfolio? Obviously, we've seen the 10-year move higher over the last -- in the fourth quarter and again in the first quarter. So I was curious how you guys think about extension risk in your book? And how you're approaching that on the hedge side as well?

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

So 94%, as Scott said in his comments, of our non-TBA position are assets that have qualities that have improved convexity. And as a result, improved convexity means improved extension characteristics. And I mean, that's like almost 100%, right? So when rates go up, we don't extend. I would also say that model-wise, most of the DV01 exposure we have is in the very short end of the curve and the Fed was very clear in their minutes yesterday, that was not going anywhere. So our exposure out to the 10-year area well, let's look at this. When we last spoke, what was the 10-year, 45 basis points, 50 basis points lower in yield than it is now? But yes, since we last spoke, our book value is up like 8%, so pretty good performance. Mortgages haven't extended yet. They will get out that term of the S curve, you get like a one 60 kind of 10-year note, mortgage banker pipelines are going to get very bloated. And all of a sudden, they're going to need to sell, and then you're going to have other people that need to sell. And you're going to see some extension, but those are going to be reflected on the TBAs and the 2s, where we've generally, as I said, reduced our exposure, and we're being very cautious. Hope that's helpful.

Trevor Cranston -- JMP Securities -- Analyst

Yeah, that is very helpful. Appreciate your comments. Thank you.

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

Great.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our next question from the line of Christopher Nolan with Ladenburg Thalmann. Please proceed.

Christopher Nolan -- Ladenburg Thalmann -- Analyst

Hi, guys. Based on Scott's comments in terms of -- and Jeff, so follow-ups in terms of I'm not reaching for earnings and protecting book value. In the past, you guys indicated that you're targeting high single-digit, low double-digit core ROE, how would you characterize the target now?

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

So we're paying a dividend of $0.10 a month based on our stock prices, about 10% dividend yield, right? And we'll continue to pay that dividend. And we would hope that at the end of the year, the total 2021 earnings and book value will exceed the dividends paid, and that's our goal. Comprehensive income.

Christopher Nolan -- Ladenburg Thalmann -- Analyst

Got it. That's it for me. Thanks.

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

Thank you.

Operator

And because it appears we have no further questions at this time, I'll return the call back to you.

James R. Mountain -- Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary

Again, I'd like to thank everybody for joining us. We look forward to continuing our conversations with you individually over the next -- over the rest of the quarter. So as always, if there's anything that comes up that you want to talk about in more depth, we're here, give us a call. And until next time, stay warm, stay safe.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 18 minutes

Call participants:

James R. Mountain -- Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary

Scott J. Ulm -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and Chief Risk Officer

Jeffrey J. Zimmer -- Co-Chief Executive Officer, Co-Vice Chairman and President

Doug Harter -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Trevor Cranston -- JMP Securities -- Analyst

Christopher Nolan -- Ladenburg Thalmann -- Analyst

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