Treasury Is Finalizing Plans To Back Up Fannie, Freddie
The Treasury is finalizing plans to backstop Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage financing giants that have been struggling with billions of dollars of losses from soured loans, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The plan, which could include some form of capital injection as well as changes to senior management, could be announced as early as this weekend, the Journal said.
Meetings were scheduled Friday with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, executives of both companies and their chief regulator, the paper said.
The Treasury, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac declined to comment on the report, which came after the market closed on Friday.
Shortly after the Journal report, Pimco's Bill Gross told CNBC that he welcomed the potential for government intervention.
"To the extent that it does happen, it's a needed step," said Gross. (See the entire interview with Gross in the accompanying video.)
News of a possible government moves on Fannie and Freddie come despite recent sentiment on Wall Street that the two government-sponsored entities have enough capital and reserves to stay in business and may not need a government bailout.
An emergency plan approved by Congress in late July gave Treasury the authority to offer an undetermined amount of credit to the two companies, or take an equity stake in them if they ran into trouble.
The two companies own or guarantee almost half of the country's $12 trillion in outstanding home mortgage debt.
Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin had told Reuters the department was "making progress on our work" with Morgan Stanley , the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates the two companies, and the Federal Reserve.
The Treasury had hired Morgan Stanley on Aug. 5 to advise it on whether the companies were adequately capitalized and help it determine how it would use its news powers to support them if needed.
While analysts have said fears over Fannie and Freddie may be overblown, the companies are still expected to post steep per-share losses through the year, and the stocks themselves are widely considered unstable.
"I'd be worried for the near term for anything that's not senior debt, especially common shares and preferred shares," says Martin Weiss, president of Weiss Research. "For the long term I'd just be worried, period."
—Reuters contributed to this report.