WASHINGTON, D.C. (
shares are surging again as speculators refuse to give up on the idea that the giant housing lenders' shares might be worth something.
Fannie Mae shares were up nearly 7% to $1.11 on volumes of 52 million shares just before noon, well above their trailing three-month daily average of 42 million shares. Friday's volume of more than 59 million shares was the highest one-day total since Oct. 21. The shares notched a 12 cent gain Friday, rising 13% to $1.04.
Freddie Mac's stock saw similar action, gaining more than 11% to $1.40 at midday on Monday with volume already above 25 million shares, in line with the issue's three-month trailing daily average. The 34 million shares that traded Friday represented the stock's highest volume session since Oct. 20.
Fannie and Freddie shares were mostly left for dead following their rescue by the government in September 2008 and are widely thought to be worthless. The lenders owe the government nearly $100 billion between them,
Still, the stock prices of both companies rallied inexplicably in August and September on heavy volumes, as did shares of other companies that took significant amounts of government assistance, including
. Even shares of bankrupt companies like
came to life during that period.
Trader Jon Najarian, co-founder of optionMONSTER,
told TheStreet.com in September
that while he was trading in several of the troubled stocks, he was not involved in Fannie or Freddie. He took has a long position in both names Dec. 7, however, he told
"When you have something that's trading all of a sudden up to 34 million shares, as (Freddie Mac) did last Friday, that's four or five times normal volume -- sounds like something might be going on," Najarian says, adding that volumes of that size are a clear indication of renewed hedge fund involvement in the names -- the first such indication in several weeks, he says.
As for what exactly may be going on, Najarian hasn't a clue, but he figures the opportunity to double his money, or at least earn 50-70%, outweighs a downside that he estimates at no more than 20%, "unless the government just pulls the plug on the program."
As for Freddie and Fannie actually being worth anything, Najarian admits his guess is as good as ours.
"I don't know that these shares need to be intrinsically worth anything for the stocks to go higher," he says.
Traders may be hoping to exploit the fact that the companies are likely to get increasing news coverage as the debate over their future heats up. On Monday,
The Wall Street Journal
reported on a proposal by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, that "the public-private partnership that has defined Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should continue in some form."
Written by Dan Freed in New York