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Freddie Mac Request Government Aid
Freddie Mac Request Government Aid

Government-controlled mortgage financier Freddie Mac (OBB:FMCC) posted a profit of $577 million in Q1 and will request additional government aid to help sustain its operations. On Thursday, Freddie reported their profit was down from a profit of $676 million a year earlier - the decline was driven in part by larger derivative losses, which totaled $1.06 billion, up from $427 million a year earlier and $766 million in the previous quarter. The companies provision for credit losses fell to $1.83 billion, down from $1.99 billion a year earlier and $2.58 billion in Q4 thanks to slowdown in loans deemed 'seriously delinquent'. Freddie said it will request an additional $19 million in government aid to offset a net deficit incurred after paying $1.81 billion in dividends to the Treasury Department. Freddie reported they saw improvement in its credit-quality during the quarter and that the rate of single-family loans deemed seriously delinquent was 3.51%, down from 3.58% in Q4, though the rate remains at elevated levels because of weak home prices and extended foreclosure timelines. The mortgage financier saw a jump in requests for lenders and mortgage servicers to buy back soured loans that breached its representation and warranty requirements with such requests at $3.2 billion based on the unpaid principal balance of the loans, up from $2.7 billion at the end of 2011. In a regulatory filing in March, Freddie said it identified two 'material weaknesses' in its financial-reporting controls that it blamed partly on 'increased levels of employee turnover'. During Q4, Freddie experienced a 'significant increase in the number of control breakdowns' related to information technology, which stemmed from 'ineffective management oversight'.

The Labor Department reported on Thursday that productivity of U.S. businesses and workers fell less than expected in the three months through March but dropped for the first time in three quarters. Reports show an estimate in the decline in productivity at 0.5% for Q1, down from a revised increase of 1.2% in Q4 which was previously reported as 0.9%. Manufacturers, which led the recovery since the U.S. exited recession in 2009, boosted productivity by 5.9%, as output jumped 10.8% and hours worked increased by 4.6%. During Q1, the amount of goods and services produced, known as real output, grew at a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of 2.7%. Hours worked rose 3.2% as hourly compensation increased 1.5% and unit-labor costs climbed 2.0% in the quarter. Unit-labor costs reflect how much it costs a business to produce one unit of output, such as a ton of steel or a crate of dry goods. Hourly wages in Q1 fell 0.9%, when adjusted for inflation. Falling real income not only lowers the standard of living, it allows consumers less to spend and makes it more difficult to save.

Institute of Supply Management reported Thursday growth in the U.S. services sector slowed to a six-month low in April, with a weakening pace of production, new orders and employment. The ISM’s services sector index fell 2.5 points to 53.5%. Of the 18 industries where purchasing managers are polled, 15 showed expansion, including retail, real estate and finance while agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry as well as mining, showed contraction. “Business is still ahead of last year, but has leveled off a little,” said a manager in the wholesale trade industry. Production index fell 5.3 points to 54.6%, new orders index dropped 5.3 points to 53.5% and employment index dropped 2.5 points to 54.2%.

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell last week for the first time in a month, down 27,000 to 365,000. Jobless claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 392,000 from 388,000. The average of new claims over the past four weeks moved higher by 750 to 383,500 striking the highest level seen since early December. Continuing jobless claims decreased by 53,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ended April 21 with continuing jobless claims reported with a one-week lag. Nearly 6.6 million people received some form of state or federal benefit in the week ended April 14, down 85,523 from previous week. The preliminary increase in March was the lowest in five months and fell well short of the 246,000 average from December to February.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday said the bank's Governing Council did not discuss a rate cut at its policy meeting in Barcelona. Draghi said policy makers still see monetary policy as 'accommodative', with nominal interest rates historically low and real interest rates at negative levels over much of the euro area and that 'nobody would argue' that liquidity is not abundant. Draghi said it would 'remain premature' for the ECB to begin discussing exit strategies from its range of extraordinary measures and that the ECB 'never pre-commits' to future moves. Draghi said there was 'no contradiction' between euro-zone countries adopting a 'growth compact' alongside a 'fiscal compact'. Draghi said European leaders need to push for reforms of the product sector as well as labor markets. "We need to complete the [European] single market [as a] very first step," he said. Labor reforms must address distortions that have left labor markets 'unbalanced' against younger workers, leading to rising youth unemployment.
 

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May 3, 2012


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