Our strategy involves significant leverage, which increases the risk that we may incur substantial losses.
We expect our leverage to vary with market conditions and our assessment of risk/return on investments. We incur this leverage by borrowing against a substantial portion of the market value of our assets. By incurring this leverage, we could enhance our returns. Nevertheless, this leverage, which is fundamental to our investment strategy, also creates significant risks. For example, because of our significant leverage, we may incur substantial losses if our borrowing costs increase or if the value of our investments declines.
Failure to procure adequate repurchase agreement financing or to renew or replace existing repurchase agreement financing as it matures (to which risk we are specifically exposed due to the short-term nature of the repurchase agreement financing we employ) would adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We use debt financing as a strategy to increase our return on equity. However, we may not be able to achieve our desired leverage ratio for a number of reasons, including the following:
our lenders do not make repurchase or other financing agreements available to us at acceptable rates;
lenders with whom we enter into repurchase or other financing agreements subsequently exit the market;
our lenders require that we pledge additional collateral to cover our borrowings, which we may be unable to do; or
we determine that the leverage would expose us to excessive risk.
Furthermore, because we rely primarily on short-term borrowings, our ability to achieve our investment objectives depends not only on our ability to borrow money in sufficient amounts and on favorable terms, but also on our ability to renew or replace on a continuous basis our maturing short-term borrowings. If we are not able to renew or replace maturing borrowings, we may have to sell some or all of our assets, possibly under adverse market conditions. In addition, if the regulatory capital requirements imposed on our lenders change, they may be required to significantly increase the cost of the financing that they provide to us. Our lenders also may revise their eligibility requirements for the types of assets they are willing to finance or the terms of such financings, based on, among other factors, the regulatory environment and their management of perceived risk, particularly with respect to assignee liability. Consequently, we cannot assure you that any, or sufficient, financing will be available to us in the future on terms that are acceptable to us. In the event that we cannot obtain sufficient funding on acceptable terms, there may be a negative impact on the value of our common and preferred stock and our ability to make distributions on our common and preferred stock.
An increase in our borrowing costs would adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our borrowing costs may increase for any of the following reasons:
•short-term interest rates increase;
•the market value of our investments decreases;
•the "haircut" applied to our assets under our repurchase agreements increases;
•interest rate volatility increases; or
•the availability of financing in the market decreases.
An increase in our borrowing costs will reduce the difference, or spread, that we may earn between the yield on the investments we make and the cost of the leverage we employ to finance such investments. Moreover, due to the short-term nature of our repurchase agreements used to finance our investments, our borrowing costs are particularly sensitive to increases in short-term interest rates. It is possible that due to higher borrowing costs, the spread on investments could be reduced to a point at which the profitability from investments would be significantly reduced. This would adversely affect the returns on our assets, financial condition and results of operations and could require us to liquidate certain or all of our assets.
Differences in the stated maturity of our fixed rate assets, or in timing of interest rate adjustments on our adjustable-rate assets, and our borrowings may adversely affect our profitability.
We rely primarily on short-term and/or variable rate borrowings to acquire fixed-rate securities with long-term maturities. In addition, we may have adjustable rate assets with interest rates that vary over time based upon changes in an objective index, such as LIBOR or the U.S. Treasury rate. These indices generally reflect short-term interest rates but these assets may not reset in a manner that matches our borrowings.
The relationship between short-term and longer-term interest rates is often referred to as the "yield curve." Ordinarily, short-term interest rates are lower than longer-term interest rates. If short-term interest rates rise disproportionately relative to longer-term interest rates (a "flattening" of the yield curve), our borrowing costs may increase more rapidly than the interest income earned on our assets. Because our investments generally bear interest at longer-term rates than we pay on our borrowings, a flattening of the yield curve would tend to decrease our net interest income and the market value of our investment portfolio.