Amid widespread criticism coming from all directions, the undisputed heavyweights of the American mortgage industry, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, may have added fuel to the fire last week when officials from the GSEs told a congressional panel that they have every intention of creeping down the credit curve and tackling the subprime mortgage market.

Despite being under fire from politicians, academics, Street competitors and private-sector lenders for allegedly wielding too much influence in the mortgage market and straying from their original charter - to create and encourage a secondary mortgage market and facilitate every American's dream of buying a home - the two agencies asserted, to the dismay of many Street observers, that subprime is fair game.

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