Previous readings examined risk characteristics of various fixed-income instruments and the relationships among maturity, coupon, and interest rate changes. This reading introduces an additional level of complexity—that of fixed-income instruments created through a process known as securitization . This process involves transferring ownership of assets from the original owners into a special legal entity. The special legal entity then issues securities backed by these assets, and the assets’ cash flows are used to pay interest and repay the principal owed to the holders of the securities. These securities are referred to generically as asset-backed securities (ABS); the pool of securitized assets from which the ABS’s cash flows are generated is called the collateral. Assets that are used to create ABS are called securitized assets . These assets are typically loans and receivables and include, among others, residential mortgage loans (mortgages), commercial mortgages, automobile (auto) loans, student loans, bank loans, accounts receivables, and credit card receivables. Advances and innovations in securitization have led to securities backed, or collateralized, by all kinds of income-yielding assets, including airport landing slots and toll roads.
This reading discusses the benefits of securitization, describes securitization, and explains the investment characteristics of different types of ABS. The terminology regarding ABS varies by jurisdiction. Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are ABS backed by a pool of mortgages, and a distinction is sometimes made between MBS and ABS backed by non-mortgage assets. This distinction is common in the United States, for example, where typically the term “mortgage-backed securities” refers to securities backed by high-quality real estate mortgages and the term “asset-backed securities” refers to securities backed by other types of assets. Because the US ABS market is the largest in the world, much of the discussion and many examples in this reading refer to the United States. Note, however, that many non-US investors hold US ABS, including MBS, in their portfolios.