THE inevitability of a taxpayer-funded bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the hobbled mortgage behemoths, shook investors last week, and shares in both companies plummeted on fears that existing stockholders would be wiped out.
These government-sponsored entities guarantee or hold $5.2 trillion in mortgages and have been hammered by defaults across the nation. Fannie Mae’s shares closed on Friday at $5, down from almost $70 a year ago. Freddie Mac fell to $2.61, which is down from about $65. Their heavily leveraged balance sheets magnify even a small rise in delinquencies.