Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Chinese and US mortgage-backed securities

... and while we're discussing the potential in backing the horses that China bought into:

New York Times, 4 September 2008:

China’s central bank is in a bind.

It has been on a buying binge in the United States over the last seven years, snapping up roughly $1 trillion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The $1.7 Billion Payday: How Bill Gross Made a Killing on the Bailout - Seeking Alpha (14 September 2008)

... The upshot is, Treasury Secretary Paulson was happy to make an example out of equity investors like Miller, who knew they were taking a big risk in pursuit of a big return.
But no way, no how was Paulson about to blow out the holdings of one of America’s top creditors (China).

By some estimates, China has now amassed as much as $1.6 trillion in foreign reserves, with more than two-thirds of that parked in U.S. debt instruments (agency debt, treasury bonds and so on). Burn those guys in a bailout plan? You’ve got to be kidding. Fiscally speaking, that would be like shooting ourselves in the foot with a machine gun.

So Gross had a pretty good lock on the situation. He knew it was sharp to align his interests with China’s. And to further ensure a positive outcome, the Bond King took every opportunity by ranting and raving from his soapbox -- a mighty big soap box -- about how government should be on the lookout for mortgage holders, and how letting mortgage owners suffer would be a travesty.

When news came out that the Fannie and Freddie debt holders would indeed be kept whole (as China demanded and Gross knew would happen), the value of those debt holdings soared, giving Gross a $1.7 billion pop in the value of his fund.

Business Week, 27 Sept 2008 (via Fox44 website)

"Perfect" Bond Asset Class?

Bill Larkin, portfolio manager for fixed income at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Mass., advises people to stay away from Fannie and Freddie debt except for shorter-dated maturities, since the agencies' fate remains to be seen. If they become part of the government, investors will win, whereas if they are broken into pieces, investors will lose because the debt will be much less liquid. He recommends other government agency debt such as that issued by the Federal Home Loan Bank or Ginnie Mae. He also suggests people buy these bonds to hold until maturity instead of buying them to trade them.

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