Agency Securities, also known as government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) securities, are debt instruments issued by quasi-governmental entities. These entities, commonly referred to as agency or GSE, are established by the United States federal government to provide funding to specific sectors of the economy. The securities issued by these entities represent an obligation of the agency and are backed by its creditworthiness.
Agency Securities play a significant role in the financial markets, serving as an integral part of investment portfolios for many investors. These securities offer unique characteristics that make them attractive to a diverse range of market participants, including individual investors, institutional investors, and foreign investors.
Agency Securities can be divided into two main categories: mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and debt securities. Mortgage-backed securities represent an ownership interest in a pool of mortgage loans, while debt securities are issued by the agency to finance their operations. The debt securities can further be classified into short-term and long-term debt instruments.
Government-sponsored enterprises are typically established to support specific sectors of the economy, primarily housing and agriculture. The most prominent examples of agency or GSE entities include the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA or Fannie Mae), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC or Freddie Mac), and the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA or Ginnie Mae).
Investing in Agency Securities carries an element of credit risk, although it is generally considered lower compared to other fixed-income instruments. While these securities are not explicitly guaranteed by the federal government, they are implicitly backed by it. This means that if an agency were to default on its obligations, it is widely expected that the federal government would step in to provide financial support.
Agency Securities benefit from a high degree of liquidity, making them easily tradable in established secondary markets. This liquidity stems from the widespread acceptance of these securities by investors, as well as the availability of market makers who facilitate their trading. As a result, investors can buy or sell these securities without significant price impact.
Agency Securities are sought after for their relatively attractive yield compared to government treasury securities. These securities often offer a yield premium since they carry a higher risk compared to treasury securities. This yield premium compensates investors for the credit risk associated with agency debt, making agency securities particularly appealing for those seeking higher returns within the fixed-income market.
The activities of agency entities and the issuance of Agency Securities are subject to regulatory oversight and supervision. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are examples of regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing the activities of the GSEs and ensuring they operate within the established guidelines and regulations.
In conclusion, Agency Securities are debt instruments issued by government-sponsored enterprises to support specific sectors of the economy. These securities offer investors the opportunity to earn a relatively attractive yield within the fixed-income market while carrying a lower credit risk compared to other fixed-income alternatives. Their liquidity, coupled with regulatory oversight, makes Agency Securities an important component of the overall financial system, contributing to the efficient allocation of capital and stability in the economy.
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