WASHINGTON - In a bid to strengthen the prices of its mortgage-backed securities, Freddie Mac has hired money managers for a portfolio of $1 billion or more of its securities.

The aim is to widen the spread between securities of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac, and those of the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, and to wrest market share from Fannie Mae, Freddie executives said.

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