Housing Slump to Last Beyond 2008, Fannie's Mudd Says

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    Housing Slump to Last Beyond 2008, Fannie's Mudd Says (Update4)

    By Peter Cook and James Tyson
    More Photos/Details

    Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mudd said the housing slump will last beyond next year, dragging down home prices and increasing credit losses.

    ``We don't think we hit a bottom until the end of '08 and then we have some period of time to work our way back up again,'' Mudd said today in an interview in Washington.

    The outlook from Fannie Mae, the largest source of money for U.S. home loans, is more bearish than that of the National Association of Realtors, which this month predicted new home sales will stop falling in the first quarter of 2008. Pessimism about the housing market is growing as prices fall and demand declines. Purchases of new homes in the U.S. dropped more than forecast in August and prices plunged by the most in almost four decades, the Commerce Department said today in Washington.

    U.S. home prices will fall 2 percent to 4 percent this year, and ``more next year,'' Mudd said.

    Mudd is right to be concerned, said Jim Vogel, head of agency debt research at FTN Financial in Memphis, Tennessee.

    The prediction ``isn't too negative at all,'' Vogel said. ``The infrastructure damage to mortgage finance this year has been breathtaking.''

    Congress created Fannie Mae and McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac, the second-largest U.S. financer of home loans, to expand home ownership and promote mortgage-market stability. The companies, which increase mortgage financing by purchasing home loans from lenders, own or guarantee about 40 percent of the $11.5 trillion U.S. home loan market.

    Losses Will Rise

    The slump, and record foreclosure rates, will increase credit losses at Fannie Mae, Mudd said in the interview. The company had about 25,125 foreclosed properties on its books at the end of last year.

    Credit losses have risen to as much as 6 basis points from a ``very, very low'' level of around 2 basis points, Mudd said. ``We're back in a normal historical range.''

    Fannie Mae rose 10 cents to $61.69 at 1:22 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock had gained 3.7 percent this year before today, trailing the 7.6 percent increase in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

    Falling housing prices, particularly in the Midwestern U.S. states, drove credit loses to 2.7 basis points of the company's total book in 2006, Fannie Mae said last month. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. Credit-related expenses rose 83 percent as the cost of foreclosed property increased.

    Meeting Requirements

    Home purchases declined 8.3 percent to an annual pace of 795,000, the lowest level in more than seven years, from a revised 867,000 rate in July, the Commerce Department said. The median price dropped 7.5 percent from August 2006, the most since 1970.

    Fannie Mae may meet all the requirements for a release of regulatory constraints on growth and reserve capital by filing timely results in February, Mudd said.

    ``If we get everything done that we need to get done between now and filing of '07 on time, which would happen in February, I think we would have completed all the things on the tick list'' in a regulatory consent order signed in May 2006, he said.

    The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight imposed the restrictions after disclosures in 2004 that it overstated earnings by $6.3 billion. Ofheo has said it won't lift constraints on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until they file regular financial reports.

    `Marched Through'

    Fannie Mae's consent order requires it to revamp corporate governance, compensation policy, accounting and internal controls. The company also must strengthen oversight of lobbying and determine the responsibility of executives and board members for the flawed accounting.

    Fannie Mae has ``marched through'' satisfying most of 80 requirements in the order ``and the big gate at the end of this is that we are a current filer and we have cleaned up our finances,'' Mudd said.

    Ofheo raised a limit on the mortgage assets of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sept. 19 to $735 billion for the third quarter and granted a 2 percent increase in the assets over the next year. ``Many safety and soundness issues are not yet resolved'' at the two government-chartered companies, Ofheo said.

    Mudd sought an increase in the cap to 10 percent.

    ``Let's loosen this up a little bit and give us a chance to respond in a market where all the other investors have gone away,'' Mudd said. ``We're not the whole solution to this problem but we can certainly play a part.''

    Legislation that passed the House in May creating a stronger regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ``is a pretty good bill'' that ``needs some clarifications and some improvements,'' Mudd said.

    The legislation would give a new regulator greater authority to alter capital reserve requirements, reduce the combined $1.5 trillion mortgage assets of the two companies. The Senate hasn't yet considered such a measure this year.