The Fannie Mae building in Washington, D.C.
The Fannie Mae building in Washington, D.C. - 
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Doug Krizner: Today, Fannie Mae, the government sponsored mortgage giant, reports earnings. As Marketplace's Dan Grech reports, investors are nervous.

Dan Grech: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the bedrock of the American mortgage industry. Together, the companies own or guarantee nearly half of all U.S. mortgages -- a total of $5 trillion.

But this once-solid foundation is beginning to show cracks, as mortgage defaults hit Fannie and Freddie's bottom lines.

Chris Mayer directs the Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia University:

Chris Mayer: We are relying on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide a lot of capital. If they're not there to provide that capital, it's gonna be very hard to find lenders in the housing market.

Grech: And then what happens?

Mayer: Well, if we can't get mortgages, the housing market's gonna be in big trouble.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are backed by the U.S. government. That means if the situation sours for the companies, taxpayers are on the hook.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.