Fannie may weather a downgrade better than others

Mortgage troubles

Steve Chiotakis: You can bet those GDP figures are rippling all through Washington at the moment where there is still no deal to raise the debt ceiling. Talk about uncertainty. The U.S. could default and its credit rating could be downgraded if we don't get a deal by early next week but some markets are still shrugging all of that going on -- off. Such as mortgage bonds backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds.

Marketplace's Heidi Moore explains.


Heidi Moore: We all remember that bad mortgage bonds kicked off the economic collapse; the government even officially took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the crisis. So those Fannie and Freddie mortgage bonds, which are backed by our struggling government, may seem like something out of a zombie nightmare movie- two monsters in one.

But actually, those mortgage bonds from Fannie and Freddie may be one of the few parts of the market that keep their cool if and when the U.S. is downgraded.

Bose George, a mortgage analyst with Keefe Bruyette & Woods, says mortgage bonds that are backed by the government are basically as safe as bonds from the U.S. Treasury. So if Treasury bonds get downgraded to a double-A rating, every other bond will get graded on the same curve.

Bose George: When you have such a big market being downgraded, it basically just changes the world and we readjust and triple-A becomes the new normal. So, collectively we're all going down.

And yes, that's the bright side. About 80% of all new mortgages flow through the government through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But what about the rest of the mortgage market? Housing is still lagging behind the rest of the recovery. This debt ceiling crisis certainly won't help that.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

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