President to speak on Fannie, Freddie on Thursday

Unwinding GSEs unlikely; investors see possibilities for recovery

President Obama will be talking housing this week when he travels to Phoenix on Thursday, in the run up to his State of the Union.

Whether GSE reform features in his speech is still up in the air – the White House press office tells HousingWire there’s no preview of the speech available yet – but housing will be the primary focus of the Obama’s remarks.

A client note from Keefe, Bruyette & Woods suggests, in fact, that Obama may be giving up on his push to unwind conservatorship for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“We believe the absence of the topic in his Phoenix speech may be seen as a sign that the administration is giving up on its goal of unwinding the [government sponsored enterprises],” the KBR note says.

Congress and the White House have both called for an unwinding, but the devil is in the details. The Senate run at the problem, the Johnson-Crapo bill, is dead in the water, and the House version – the PATH Act – may get a hearing in the new Republican Congress, but it isn’t likely to make it past the White House.

Groups like Investors Unite, which saw shareholder rights swept away with the Third Amendment sweep by the Treasury Department, are hoping that the stall out will actually better their chances for a resolution that ends with them getting their stake back.

A client note from Goldman Sachs says the new Congress brings a lot of uncertainty.

The source of political uncertainty is likely to shift from the House to the Senate and, in some cases, from Congress to the White House.

“Since Republicans took control of Congress in 2011, most major legislative agreements have followed a similar path: the House passes legislation with only Republican votes, the Senate passes compromise legislation with some support from both parties, and that Senate legislation then passes the House, often by a very narrow margin and often at the last minute,” Goldman analysts write.

“The wider margin of control in the House is likely to provide Republican leaders in that chamber a bit more flexibility in passing legislation with Republican votes without having to reach across the aisle for Democratic support as they have often had to do on major fiscal matters.”

With 54 seats in the Senate, Republican leaders will still need to compromise with Democrats on most issues to reach the 60 votes usually needed to pass most legislation.

Nevertheless, Republicans will control the legislative calendar, which will lead to some legislation that the White House opposes reaching the President's desk. The upshot will be a greater focus on the Senate, and a greater focus on whether the President will sign or veto various measures, Goldman writes.

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