How likely is a Fannie/Freddie bailout?

Signs at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac buildings

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Those two siblings Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have some serious issues to work out. Earlier this week, Freddie reported a huge second-quarter loss. This morning, it's Fannie's turn to do the mortgage numbers. The government has agreed to save these two in case they're about to drown. So looking at these numbers, we wondered how likely that might be. Steve Henn has more.


Steve Henn: Losses continue to mount at Fannie and Freddie. And the big question on everyone's mind is, are we headed toward a government bailout?

Tom LaMalfa: Absolutely.

Tom LaMalfa is a mortgage industry economist at Wholesale Access:

LaMalfa: I think that the situation is imperiled and the taxpayers are going to be called upon. Whether we call it a nationalization or not of Fannie and Freddie is just more a matter of semantics.

We're not there yet -- Freddie Mac has been saying for months that it will raise at least $5.5 billion to shore up its books by issuing new stock. But with a bleak housing market, Fannies and Freddie's blood-soaked balance sheets have left analysts like LaMalfa skeptical.

LaMalfa: I don't think the private sector wants to go near this. I think they are going to let the government work this out and try to unwind this.

If that happened, it could cost taxpayers $25 billion.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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