Fannie Mae bought $59.1 billion in mortgages during March, its best showing of the year, but a 46% decline from the same month a year ago.During the first quarter Fannie purchased $163 billion in loans, a 52% decline from the same period last year. Retained commitments totaled $29.4 billion during the month, the company's best reading since September of last year. However, Fannie's retained portfolio shrank for the sixth consecutive month to $880.9 billion. In a research note, Smith Barney predicts Fannie's portfolio growth should turn positive some time during the second quarter.

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