The stock market was having a mildly negative day on Friday. As of 2:15 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were slightly negative, while the Nasdaq Composite was barely in positive territory. Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae (OTC:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC:FMCC) were another story, soaring by 17% and 23%, respectively.
Fannie and Freddie have been under government conservatorship for 12 years, after being bailed out in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008. And there has been an ongoing battle to return control of the companies to shareholders.
It has been one of the goals of the Trump administration to do just that, but nothing has happened yet. However, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday morning that the economist who heads the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie and Freddie, is pushing to return the two agencies to investors before President-elect Biden begins his term in late January.
To be sure, getting housing reform of this magnitude done in the next two months is a longshot. It would require the FHFA to reach an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and while Mnuchin has expressed that he's open to a deal, there's no sign that such an agreement is imminent. Any such agreement would likely involve a fairly complex restructuring of the current arrangement, and it would be important to ensure there would be no major disruption to the mortgage market, as Fannie and Freddie have a 57% share of the U.S. mortgage industry.
However, an agreement would likely mean a major windfall for Fannie and Freddie's shareholders, and that's why we're seeing both stocks moving higher today.