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Bank Slobbers Over Fannie, Freddie Pullback

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Federal Housing Finance Agency wants Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) to pull back from multifamily mortgage lending, which could boost New York Community Bancorp's (NYCB) presence in its favored line of business.

Multifamily lending with a focus on apartment buildings with below market rents in the New York City area has been the preferred lending area for New York Community Bancorp for decades. The company had $44.2 billion in total assets as of June 30, with noncovered multifamily loans held for investment totaling $19.2 billion, or 43% of total assets.

Speaking at the Barclays Capital Global Financials Conference in New York on Tuesday, New York Community Bancorp CEO Joseph Ficalora said the pullback from multifamily loan purchases by Fannie and Freddie was "clearly" an opportunity for the bank.

"In 2008 when Fannie and Freddie were in somewhat disarray and pulled out of the market a bit, interest rates moved up dramatically." Fannie and Freddie's loan purchases have a "meaningful impact on the rates that everybody gets nationally, whether it's on one-to-four family or it's on multi-family," Ficalora added. "So, when they are less active, rates will automatically move up and the period ahead is most likely going to see a significant change in what Fannie and Freddie actually does in both multi-family and one-to-four family. And as a result of that, I would think that rates will, in fact, move up in both of those asset classes."

Fannie and Freddie were taken under government conservatorship in September 2008, and still purchase roughly 90% of one-to-four family mortgage loans originated in the United States. While the fate of the two companies -- known as the government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs -- is still up in the air, their regulator has been working to shrink their operations, which has included the goal this year of "reducing their volume of new multifamily business by 10 percent relative to 2012."

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