Mar 28, 2019

Trump looks to remove Fannie and Freddie from conservatorship

President Trump signed a memorandum on federal housing finance Wednesday that starts the process of removing mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government oversight.

The backdrop: The two government-sponsored enterprises have been under conservatorship since 2008, when they faced collapse during the subprime mortgage crisis.

What they're saying: "The lack of comprehensive housing finance reform since the financial crisis of 2008 has left taxpayers potentially exposed to future bailouts, and has left the Federal housing finance programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development potentially overexposed to risk and with outdated operations," the White House said in a statement.

  • California-based asset management firm PIMCO has spoken out strongly against such action in the past, arguing as "one of the largest participants in the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market," that the government should largely leave the current system in place.

But analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a note Thursday the memo "should have only a limited effect on the housing market."

  • "First, we are somewhat skeptical that sweeping changes will be implemented quickly, as the Treasury and FHFA face some constraints on their authority."
  • "Second, we expect the Trump Administration to proceed cautiously to avoid disrupting the mortgage and housing markets ahead of the 2020 presidential election."

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MLB's Rob Manfred is latest villain in Astros' cheating scandal

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to grant Astros players immunity in exchange for confessions about their sign-stealing scheme has undermined his reputation — and he only made himself look worse on Sunday.

The interview: In a 45-minute conversation with ESPN, Manfred asserted that public shame was punishment enough for the Astros. He also called the World Series trophy "just a piece of metal" and said that taking a title away from Houston "seems like a futile act."

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Economists warn coronavirus risk far worse than realized

Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Worries are growing that the economic impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak will be worse than expected and that markets are being too complacent in factoring it in as a risk.

What's happening: The number of confirmed cases has already far outpaced expectations and even those reports are being viewed through a lens of suspicion that the Chinese government is underreporting the figures.

National newspapers thrive while local outlets struggle to survive

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While big national newspapers grow stronger, local newspaper chains that have for decades kept the vast majority of the country informed are combusting.

Why it matters: The inequity between giants like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and their local counterparts represents a growing problem in America as local communities no longer have the power to set the agenda for the news that most affects them.