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North America - Best agency borrower

Federal Home Loan Banks

There's no bigger issuer of debt than the Federal Home Loan Banks' office of finance. Last year it raised $440 billion in bonds and over $900 billion of term discount notes. Even the US government doesn't issue as much, although the rising budget deficit might mean the Treasury could soon be mounting a challenge.

For now, though, the federal home loan banking system is bigger. And not just in the amount issued. So far this year, according to John Darr, CEO of the office of finance, 82 different underwriters have taken part in its bond deals. That's nearly four times as many as the US government uses. As a point of reference, Darr says that roughly 110 institutions are registered as bond underwriters in the US.

Yet it's much less well known than Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Until May last year the FHLB had never issued what Darr describes as "unswapped, syndicated, long-term, pre-sold global bonds".

It had never needed to. Most of its funding needs are at the shorter end of the spectrum. "We don't make 10-year loans," says Darr. "What we have to fund is a pool of collateral wanting short, floating-rate loans.

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