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A Gift Horse For Fannie & Freddie?

Fannie's and Freddie's old loan limit was just $417,000. In pricey markets like the Washington, D.C., area, where the median price of a single-family home is $450,000, their new, higher loan limit could provide a much-needed infusion of lending capacity and help bring down jumbo loan rates, which have risen to nearly a percentage point more than rates on the smaller, "conventional" mortgages Fannie and Freddie have purchased and packaged in the past. Or so backers of the new provision hope.

The ability to buy loans above the old limit is a power Fannie and Freddie have sought for years, over opposition from banks and some members of Congress. So now that Fannie and Freddie have the power, will they come to regret it?

New data show credit quality has been deteriorating even for prime mortgages taken out by the nation's most desirable borrowers. Delinquencies for supposedly high-quality jumbo mortgages and somewhat riskier alt-A loans taken out in 2006 and 2007 in places like Florida, Michigan and Ohio are rising sharply,

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