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Is Fannie Mae Toast?

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A new phenomenon of widespread negative equity — homeowners owing more on their mortgage than the underlying property is worth — has wrought a sea change in borrower behavior. Borrowers, whether subprime or prime, financially stretched or flush with cash, are walking brazenly from their l obligations in stunning numbers.

To be sure, Fannie has a better book of mortgages than most institutions. Fannie requires a layer of credit insurance on much of its high-loan-to-value mortgages. The GSEs have long insisted on higher underwriting standards on the loans they purchase in the secondary market.

<H3 class=featured>The Bottom Line</H3>The stock down 65% since last fall, may well fall a lot farther. As capital declines, the company could issue more stock. But that, too, would hurt shareholders.Yet using conservative default rates of 40% on its $133 billion subprime book, 12.5% on its $314 billion of Alt-A mortgages and 4% on its remaining $2 trillion of prime home mortgages, Fannie could well be facing cumulative credit losses of over $50 billion. That's after assuming Fannie will realize recoveries of 60% on its subprime and Alt-A loans and 70% on its prime loans. Should Fannie founder over the next couple of years, the government would have no choice but to step in and back all of its debt and guarantee obligations. Too much of the paper is owned by our major creditors, such as China and Japan.

Perhaps, both Fannie and Freddie can go back to the capital markets to raise more equity, as they did last fall when both sold a combined $13 billion of preferred stock. Both have said they may take such action should circumstances demand it. But with both stocks in steep decline — Fannie's is down 65% since last fall — offerings would bring punishing dilution and growing investor skepticism.

Just maybe a bailout of Fannie, in effect a nationalization, would be a good thing. A retooled Fannie could pursue its important social mission without the distraction of trying to please Wall Street. Of course, it's doubtful if this happens that the shareholders would be along for the ride.

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  • 295 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?

      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%

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