Relying on the generosity of foreign creditors
"Seeking to head off any unloading of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds by Japanese investors, the U.S. Treasury Department is taking the unusual step of directly contacting Japanese financial institutions about the plan to rescue the mortgage giants, according to a published report.
"Because a massive unloading of Fannie Mae holdings could hamper the U.S. government's efforts to shore up the mortgage firms' finances, the Treasury Department is effectively asking investors to refrain from doing so, Japanese business daily Nikkei said on its Website in a report dated Friday.
"According to sources familiar with the matter, Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David McCormick on Thursday phoned senior executives at major Japanese banks as well as the Life Insurance Association of Japan to explain Washington's plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the report said.
"McCormick is believed to have reiterated plans announced Sunday, including seizure of both mortgage giants and the government's intention to infuse funds if necessary. During the phone calls, he is also said to have urged Japanese institutions to continue investing with confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."
And let's be clear: The timing of the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was likely tied to the recent skittishness among foreign investors toward their debt. As the New York Times noted back in July ...
"For more than a decade, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing giants that make the American mortgage market run, have attracted overseas investors with a simple pitch: the securities they issue are just as good as the United States government’s, and they usually pay better.
"The marketing plan worked. About one-fifth of securities issued by Fannie, Freddie and a handful of much smaller quasi-governmental agencies, some $1.5 trillion worth, were held by foreign investors at the end of March. One out of 10 American mortgages is, in effect, in the hands of institutions and governments outside the United States.
"Now that the two companies are at risk, how their rescue is handled will ultimately test the world’s faith in American markets. It could also influence the level of interest rates and weigh on the strength of the dollar for years to come, analysts say.
“No less than the international perception of the credit quality of the U.S. government is at stake,” said Richard Hofmann, an analyst with CreditSights, an independent research house with offices in London and New York."