Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would need up to $100 billion if another financial crisis struck, according to the results of "stress tests" for the two bailed-out mortgage giants released Monday.
The stress tests are exercises in which the two institutions examine what would happen to their bottom lines if they faced another downturn like the one in 2008, in which unemployment soars, stock markets crater and housing prices collapse.
Combined, the two enterprises would require a cash infusion from the Treasury of $34.8 billion or $99.6 billion, depending on the treatment of tax assets.
Such a transfer would inevitably be portrayed as a bailout. Yet, since 2008, Fannie and Freddie have been in the federal government's custody, and since 2012 they have been required to send all their profits to the Treasury.
The two government-sponsored enterprises have next to no capital to absorb losses, but under current law they have a line of credit with the Treasury of $258.1 billion. Monday's results show that they could withstand a major financial crisis without requiring a new legislative bailout from Congress. They also show slightly smaller projected losses than for past years.
Mel Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency responsible for overseeing Fannie and Freddie, has called on Congress to address the companies' bailed-out status before they run out of money and are forced to draw on the Treasury.