Loan purchases by Freddie Mac hit a 17-month low in December, reflecting the slowdown in originations in the primary market.However, the news isn't all bad. Purchase commitments rose for the second month in a row. Moreover, Freddie bought a record $826 billion in mortgages for the year, a 29% increase from the purchase level in 2002. In December the mortgage giant bought $44.2 billion in loans, compared with $44.5 billion the month before. In December 2002 it purchased $91.2 billion. At year end, its retained portfolio totaled $644 billion. In December its portfolio decreased at an annualized rate of 4.1%, but for the full year the growth rate was 13.6%. Over the past few weeks, Freddie Mac's stock price has risen steadily and is now close to its 52-week high. The government-sponsored enterprise can be found online at http://www.freddiemac.com.

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