Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Shot in the Arm for Jumbo Mortgages

Bernanke sets out jumbo mortgage plan

Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, on Thursday put forward a plan to help revive the secondary market for jumbo (large denomination) mortgages that would involve Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as credit guarantees from the federal government.

Mr Bernanke told Congress he would support raising the limit on the size of the individual loans eligible for securitisation by the government-sponsored mortgage finance entities from $417,000 to $1m (€680,000, £475,000) on a temporary basis.

He suggested that Fannie and Freddie could pay insurance premiums on these loans to the federal government, which would "act as guarantor" by taking on some of the credit risk.

Charles Schumer, the Democratic chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, enthusiastically welcomed the idea and said he would try to insert it into legislation already before Congress.

The unusually specific proposal by Mr Bernanke reflects his disappointment at the continued problems in the jumbo market, and concern that this will aggravate the US housing downturn.

By Krishna Guha - Financial Times

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