US Treasury credit deal to shore up Freddie and Fannie

The United States Treasury and The Federal Reserve announced measures to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the struggling government-sponsored companies that underpin the American mortgage market – in a bid to head off a potential meltdown in global financial markets.

In moves that could mean a major escalation in US taxpayer exposure, the Fed said yesterday that the companies could access its discount window for emergency cash. The Treasury also said it would temporarily increase its line of credit to the two, as well as purchase equity in them, if needed.

The Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, conceded last night that "we must take steps to address the current situation", adding that their "continued strength is important to maintaining confidence and stability in our financial system and our financial markets".

A senior Treasury official said all the actions it proposed need congressional approval, but expressed confidence that could be secured within this week.

The decision reversed an earlier statement by the Treasury Secretary that any rescue package for the struggling firms would have to come at the expense of the groups' shareholders.

Both companies had lost almost half their value last week after rumours of a state bailout swept the market and panicked investors into a mass sell-off.

Mr Paulson said policymakers had consulted closely over the weekend and added that it "makes sense" to take the actions announced. The Treasury would increase the line of credit to the companies, which currently stands at $2.25bn (£1.13bn), as well as offering them credit at the discount rate of 2.25 per cent from the emergency lending facility if needed.

Reports at the weekend had said that Mr Paulson was working on plans to inject $15bn into the companies – possibly before the markets opened in the US this morning. Under the terms of the proposal, the US government would issue a new class of shares, which would have diluted the position of existing shareholders.

Investors will be watching Freddie Mac as it attempts to get a $3bn debt sale away today. Failure to complete the sale could deal a heavy blow to investor confidence. However, it is believed that Treasury officials had been on the phone to investors over the weekend to ensure that the sale gets away without any trouble. Investors are still coming to terms with the failure of the Californian mortgage bank Indymac, which became the third biggest banking casualty in American history when it was seized by US regulators on Friday.

Savers with $100,000 or less in their accounts will have their savings fully guaranteed by the state. Those with larger amounts on deposit – around 10,000 customers – will now potentially lose some of their investment.

The collapse, which is expected to cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) between $4bn and $8bn, is the biggest banking failure since the American Savings & Loan Association folded in 1988. The only other larger collapse was the Illinois National Bank, which folded with $40bn of assets, in 1984.

Indymac has assets of $32bn, and was ranked as the country's ninth-largest mortgage lender. It saw a sharp fall in its level of deposits last month, when the New York Senator Chuck Schumer raised concerns about the bank's solvency. Over the next fortnight, savers withdrew some $1.3bn – a move which the director of the US Office of Thrift Supervision, John Reich, blamed for the ultimate failure of the bank.

Sources said the bank's aggressive business model had also been to blame. The bank lent in the difficult sub-prime market, and had continued to lend aggressively since the start of the credit crunch in the hope of mopping up new business while its rivals were pulling back. Having been taken under the control of the FDIC on Friday, the bank will open for business again today.

Fannie and Freddie have grown in importance during the credit crunch because investors are unwilling to buy any mortgage-backed securities without their backing. They accounted for 98 per cent of the mortgage bond market in March compared with less than a half a year ago.

Politicians attempted to calm the panic in the US banking sector at the weekend. Talking on CNN yesterday, Senator Christopher Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said: "They [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] have more than adequate capital, in fact more than the law requires ... They're in good shape."

This week promises to be another difficult one for financial markets, with Citigroup and Merrill Lynch both expected to unveil multibillion-dollar write-downs.

And Indymac may not be the last of the banking failures. Four small banks have already been closed. The FDIC has boosted its list of troubled banks to 90. Last year, just three banks failed.

"Indymac's takeover by the FDIC is one of many to come," predicted Daniel Alpert, an investment banker at Westwood Capital in New York.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor