Freddie Mac won't make a dividend payment to the Treasury Department after declining interest rates and widening spreads on investments triggered a $354 million first-quarter loss for the mortgage finance giant.
Because the company's net worth stood at $1 billion as of March 31, it will escape having to draw on its government line of credit, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday. Analysts forecasting the quarterly loss had speculated that it might lead to a request for U.S. aid for the first time since 2012 and rekindle calls to speed reform of the housing finance market.
While Freddie Mac reported $3.4 billion of net interest income in the first quarter, that figure was overshadowed by a $4.6 billion decline in the value of derivatives.
The company, which received $71.3 billion in Treasury aid to survive the financial crisis, has paid $98.2 billion to the government since regaining profitability in 2012, according to the filing. McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac paid $5.5 billion in dividends to Treasury in 2015 on net income of $6.4 billion, the company said earlier this year.
Freddie Mac and larger rival Fannie Mae provide liquidity to the housing market by buying mortgages and then packaging them into securities on which they guarantee payments of principal and interest. They are required to pay Treasury all profits above a minimum net worth under terms established after they were seized by regulators amid losses that pushed them to the brink of collapse. The payments count as a return on the U.S. investment and not as repayment of the aid, leaving no mechanism for them to exit government control.
Melvin L. Watt, director of the federal regulator for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which has overseen their conservatorship since 2008, has spoken about the need for a long-promised overhaul the U.S. housing finance system nearly a decade after a mortgage market meltdown triggered a global financial crisis.
In a February speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Federal Housing Finance Agency Watt urged lawmakers to "engage in the work of thoughtful housing finance reform before we reach a crisis of investor confidence or a crisis of any other kind."