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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fannie and Freddie: Thinking the Unthinkable

by Calculated Risk on 7/09/2008 04:52:00 PM

From Fortune: The Fannie and Freddie doomsday scenario

Here's a scary, and relevant, question to ponder as the housing market continues to slide: What would it take for the government to step in and help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and how would a rescue affect you, the taxpayer?
Although S&P argues it is unlikely that either Fannie or Freddie will fail, one thing is pretty certain - there is no way politically that Fannie and Freddie would be allowed to fail.
So what might it look like if the government had to lend a hand? Outright nationalization is an unlikely option given that neither the current administration nor the presidential candidates could afford to support such a move in an election year.

More likely, the Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve would come in and provide a liquidity backstop, in the form of a loan or guarantee to bondholders that they will be paid.
Some investors apparently don't think the government will guarantee Fannie and Freddie debt since the (link fixed) spreads to treasuries on Fannie two year notes are at record levels. An explicit loan guarantee would reduce the borrowing costs for Fannie and Freddie, and reduce mortgage rates. Of course this would probably mean the end of the dividend (both companies pay hefty dividends) until the loan guarantees are lifted, possibly a change in management, and would still require raising more dilutive capital. No wonder Fannie and Freddie equity investors are scared.

Mish argues that the Nationalization of Fannie and Freddie is unavoidable.