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UPDATE 1-Obama to tap official to oversee Fannie, Freddie

WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans on Friday to nominate a state bank regulator to head the U.S. agency that oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an administration official said. North Carolina banks commissioner Joseph Smith will be tapped to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the official said. The nomination comes at a critical time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

At the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, both companies were bailed out by taxpayers, seized by the government and put in federal conservatorship. They are now money-losing organizations that have soaked up $148 billion in bailout money and are under direct federal supervision. They stand behind 80 percent of new U.S. home mortgages. A major push to fundamentally reform them is expected to get under way in Congress within weeks. (Reporting by Steve Holland, Ross Colvin and Kevin Drawbaugh) Keywords: USA HOUSING/SMITH (kevin.drawbaugh@thomsonreuters.com, +1 202 898 8390, +1 202 488 3459 (fax)) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.

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