Fed Minutes Show An Improving U.S. Economy Threatened By The Eurozone

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

FOMC Minutes December 2011The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Fed Minutes are a detailed meeting recap; the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known press release.

As a comparison, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting contained 60 paragraphs and 7,027 words. The post-meeting press release was just 5 paragraphs and 382 words.

December’s Fed Minutes shows Fed members with a positive, cautious, take on the economy.

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, the Fed said, but “strains” in global financial markets pose “significant risks” to the downside. This tell us that the Fed believes its economy-stimulating programs are working, but that officials remained concerned by events in the Eurozone.

The U.S. economy could be impacted by fallout. 

Other meeting consensus included : 

  • On growth : The economy is expanding, despite slowing in “global economic growth”
  • On housing : Data suggests the “depressed” market “could be improving”
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and remain within tolerance levels

The Fed’s analysis was of little surprise to Wall Street, and going forward, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to keep it that way. The Fed Minutes contained a passage regarding market communication, and how the Fed will be more pro-active about it in the future. 

With the release of its minutes, in a section called “Market Policy Communications”, the Federal Reserve showed its plans to release 4 times annually its economic forecasts, and plans for the Fed Funds Rate. This signals in a shift in Federal Reserve transparency.

The Federal Reserve will begin including the forecast in its economic projections beginning after its next policy meeting, January 24-25, 2012.

Mortgage rates in Ohio were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (December 13, 2011 Edition)

December 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishTuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was nearly unanimous for the second straight month. Just one FOMC member dissented in the vote, favoring additional policy stimulus beyond what the Federal Reserve currently provides.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve sais that the the U.S. economy is improving, noting that since its November 2011 meeting, the economy has been “expanding moderately”. The Fed also added that domestic growth is occurring despite some “apparent slowing in global growth” — a nod to ongoing uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects a moderate pace of growth over the next few quarters, and believes that the jobs market will continue to improve, but slowly.

Other potential soft spots within the economy include :  

  1. A slowdown in business investment
  2. A “depressed” housing market
  3. Strains in global financial markets

The Federal Reserve added no new policies at its December meeting, and made no changes to existing ones. It re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its current range of 0.000-0.250 percent “at least until mid-2013” and re-affirmed “Operation Twist” — the stimulus program through which the Fed sells Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and uses the proceeds to buy mortgage bonds with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage bonds are mostly unchanged since the Fed’s announcement, giving mortgage rates in Madeira little reason to rise or fall.

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points + closing costs, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at less than 4 percent. If you’re thinking of buying or refinancing a home, it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate.

The FOMC’s next meeting will be its first scheduled meeting of the new year. The meeting is slated for January 24-25, 2012.

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Fed Minutes : A Fed Divided Reaches Comprise

October 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

Fed Minutes

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting September 20-21, 2011.

The release shows a divided Fed in disagreement about the current U.S. monetary policy. The group reached compromise for new economic stimulus, however, and maintained its commitment to accommodative interest rates.

Wall Street reacted tepidly to the minutes. Mortgage rates in Madeira worsened slightly post-release.

The Fed Minutes gets less press than the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, but it’s every bit as important. Because it details the conversations that take place among voting and non-voting Fed members at FOMC meetings, the Fed Minutes is an inside-look at the debates and discussion that lead to new monetary policy.

As examples, here are some of the topics covered at the September FOMC meeting :

  • On growth : Economic growth was slow, but “did not suggest a contraction”
  • On housing : The market continues to be “depressed by weak demand”
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate will remain low until mid-2013

Then, with Fed members divided on whether the central bank should add new stimulus, it reached a compromise instead, launching the $400 billion “Operation Twist” program. Operation Twist is meant to lower longer-term interest rates, including mortgage rates.

Since Operation Twist began, mortgage rates are higher by nearly 0.375%.

Also noteworthy within the Fed Minutes was concern for an economic slowdown and how the Federal Reserve may react. According to the record, a slowdown may prompt the Fed to introduce its third round of qualitative easing, or QE3. An out-sized stimulus plan would likely lead rates higher.

Nothing will happen until the Fed’s next meeting, however. Chairman Ben Bernanke & Co meet next November 1-2 for a 2-day meeting..

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (September 21, 2011 Edition)

September 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishWednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was 7-3 — the second straight meeting at which the FOMC adjourned with as many 3 dissenters. Prior to that last meeting, there hadn’t been 3 FOMC dissenters since 1992.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented a dour outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in August:

  1. Economic growth “remains slow”
  2. Unemployment rates “remain elevated”
  3. The housing sector “remains depressed”

The Fed also said that there are “significant downside risks” to the economic outlook, tied to strains in the global financial markets.  

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

The Fed noted that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that inflationary pressures on the economy appear to have stabilized. The Fed then re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013”. This means that Prime Rate — the rate to which credit card rates and lines of credits are often tied — should remain unchanged at 3.250 for at least another 2 years.

Furthermore, as expected, the Federal Reserve launched a market stimulus plan aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. The Fed will sell $400 billion in Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and use the proceeds to buy the same with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in Kentucky are improving, but note that Wall Street sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market that’s as uncertain as this one.

If today’s mortgage rates and payments fit your household budget, consider locking in a rate. Rates can change swiftly.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair, scheduled for November 1-2, 2011.

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The Fed Adjourns At 2:15 PM ET Today : What It Means For Mortgage Rates

September 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

Comparing 30-year fixed to Fed Funds Rate (1990-2011)

The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from a two-day, scheduled meeting today, the sixth of 8 scheduled meetings this year, and the seventh Fed meeting overall.

The FOMC is a designated, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve, led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The FOMC is the voting members for the country’s monetary policy. Among its other responsibilities, the FOMC sets the Fed Funds Rate, the overnight rate at which banks borrow money from each other.

Note that the “Fed Funds Rate” is different from “mortgage rates”. Mortgage rates are not set by the Fed. Rather, they are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, a security traded among investors.

As the chart at top illustrates, the Fed Funds Rate and conforming mortgage rates in Mason have little correlation. Since 1990, the two benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as close as 0.52 percent.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the national average for a standard, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is roughly 4 percent. This spread will change, however, beginning 2:15 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC adjourns from its meeting and releases its public statement to the markets.

There is no doubt that the Fed will leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current target range of 0.000-0.250%; Fed Chairman Bernanke plans to leave the benchmark rate as-is until at least mid-2013. However, the Fed is expected to add new support for markets.

Unfortunately, there are few clues about how the Fed will support markets, and there is no consensus opinion regarding the size of the said support. As a result, mortgage rates should be bouncy today. First, they’ll be volatile ahead of the Fed’s statement. Then, they’ll be volatile post-Fed statement.

Even if the Fed does nothing, mortgage rates will change. This is because Wall Street is prepping for an announcement and — no matter what the Fed says or does — investors will want to react accordingly.

When mortgage markets are volatile, the safest move is to lock your mortgage rate in. There too much risk to float.

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Fed Minutes : Fed Considered Additional Stimulus In August

August 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

FOMC Minutes August 2011

The Fed publishes meeting minutes 8 times annually — three weeks after each scheduled Federal Open Market Committee get-together. The Fed Minutes summarizes the FOMC meeting.

The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its August 9, 2011 Federal Open Market Committee meeting Tuesday.

The Fed Minutes contained no surprises and, as a result, mortgage rates across Kentucky and nationwide have idled.

Although it gets less press attention, the Fed Minutes is every bit as important as the more highly-publicized, post-meeting statement from the FOMC. With its detailed record of conversation, the Fed Minutes highlights the discussions and debates that shape our nation’s monetary policy.

For example, here is some of what was said at the Fed’s August 2011 meeting :

  • On growth : Economic growth had been slower than the committee expected
  • On housing : The market “remains depressed”. Underwriting standards are “tight”.
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate will remain low until mid-2013

In addition, the Fed talked about whether a third round of asset purchases should be announced. Ultimately, that plan was rejected by consensus.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day meeting, scheduled for September 20-21. The meeting was originally scheduled for just one day, but Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke chose to extend it to two. Wall Street believes that the extension was made so Fed members could discuss new forms of economic stimulus.

Depending on the form of said stimulus — if it should even occur — mortgage rates may rise or fall. We can’t know for certain unti the size and scope of the Fed’s plan is known.

For now, mortgage rates remain rock-bottom. There’s more room for rates to rise than to fall. If you’re shopping for a loan and the rate looks right, therefore, consider locking on it.

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