Thursday, September 11, 2008

Update on Role of China in Fannie -Freddie bailout

The WSJ has an article on the bailout of Fannie and Freddie which illuminates the role of China and other foreign investors. Here is a relevant portion:

Foreign central banks had been among those voicing concerns in the weeks ahead of the government's seizure of Freddie and Fannie. The banks had steadily reduced their holdings of debt in the two firms in recent weeks as the turmoil around the firms worsened.

China's four biggest commercial banks, too, pared back their holdings in agency debt, with Bank of China Ltd., the largest holder of Fannie and Freddie securities among these banks, saying it sold or allowed to mature $4.6 billion of the $17.3 billion it held as of June 30, down from more than $20 billion at the end of last year.

Treasury tried to head off such concerns by having David McCormick, the undersecretary for international affairs, call foreign central banks and other overseas buyers of the companies' securities or debt to reassure them of the instruments' creditworthiness. Over the weekend, Treasury officials called sovereign-wealth funds in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere in the Middle East, assuring them that they were working on financial issues involving Fannie and Freddie, says an individual apprised of the conversations.

Like many investors, foreign governments, particularly central banks and sovereign-wealth funds, believed the U.S. government implicitly stood behind Fannie and Freddie and would prop them up to prevent a failure.

The point to remember is that foreign investors hold a lot more (an order of magnitude more) US assets then their holdings in Freddie and Fannie. So the threat to withdraw even some of them could have destroyed many other financial institutions.

No comments: