Federal regulators said Wednesday they would allow mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce the capital they are required to keep on hand, a move that could pump $200 billion into mortgage markets.
The rule change was announced by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, (OFHEO), a normally low-profile agency which sets rules for the two government sponsored companies that between them hold or guarantee nearly $5 trillion in mortgages.
OFHEO estimates that Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s existing capabilities, combined with this new initiative and the release of the portfolio caps announced in February, should allow the GSEs to purchase or guarantee about $2 trillion in mortgages this year. This capacity will permit them to do more in the jumbo temporary conforming market, subprime refinancing and loan modifications areas.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (as well as FHA) have evolved into critical roles in stabilizing the credit market panic and have assumed important roles in providing greater liquidity to the mortgage markets, a key component in avoiding long term damage to the economy.
The OFHEO assures us that the 20% capital requirement is enough cushion for safety and the GSEs will begin to aggressively raise capital starting now. The $200B in extra funds will allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy more mortgage securities and new home loans and increase mortgage guarantees.
Not too sound too rah rah here but I am amazed that we continue to see creative solutions to the credit crisis, seemingly everyday. Of course OFHEO missed the boat while the problems developed but at least now we are seeing some action.
Mandatory reading today: Can’t Grasp Credit Crisis? Join the Club by the NYT’s David Leonhardt. Please read it.
Raise your hand if you don’t quite understand this whole financial crisis.