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31 10, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Release Hope Of A Stronger Economy With New Measures

Fed Meeting Minutes Release Hope In A Stronger Economy With New MeasuresThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee released its customary after-meeting statement on Wednesday. In the context of meeting its dual mandate of stabilizing pricing and achieving maximum employment.

The FOMC statement indicated that although the economy has improved in areas including household spending and labor market conditions, the national unemployment rate remains high and the housing market recovery has slowed.

Fed Says Fiscal Policy Restraining Economic Growth

The FOMC statement said that current fiscal policy and “retrenchment” is restraining economic growth as evidenced by failure to achieve benchmarks set by FOMC as indicators of a healthy economy. Benchmarks include a national unemployment rate no higher than 6.50 percent and achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

September’s unemployment rate was 7.20 percent and inflation has run consistently below the FOMC objective. Not to be confused with the FOMC statement’s references to monetary policy, the term fiscal policy refers to the government’s budgetary policy.

Committee Sees Moderate Economic Growth, Seeks Improvement

While the Fed cited “moderate economic growth,” the FOMC statement clearly indicated that the committee is not ready to alter its current policy of quantitative easing and estimates that it will maintain the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time after the QE bond-buying program is phased out.  

The Federal Reserve currently purchases $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in Treasury securities as part of its QE program. The Fed will also continue its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments it receives on holdings of agency debt and MBS, as well as selling maturing Treasury securities at auction.

These activities are part of FOMC’s strategy for supporting low mortgage rates and mortgage markets while making “broader financial conditions more accommodative.” The Fed expects these measures to assist with a stronger economic recovery and stabilizing inflation at the Fed’s target rate.

Fed To Continue Monitoring Economic, Financial Developments 

FOMC reasserted its position that any decision to alter current QE policy is not solely subject to economic benchmarks, but will be based on the Committee’s close review of labor market conditions, inflation pressures, and financial developments.

FOMC commented in its statement that it will continue to review economic and financial conditions in the “coming months” and will decide when to taper its monthly asset purchase according to what is learned.

This suggests that changes to the present QE policy are not anticipated for several months, and that the effects of QE combined with dampened speculation may help with keeping mortgage rates lower.

19 11, 2012

Federal Reserve : New Economic Stimulus May Be Warranted

Is more Fed stimulus in store for 2013?The Federal Reserve released its October Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes last week, revealing a Fed in disagreement about the future of the U.S. economy and about what, if any, stimulus may be warranted in the next 12 months.

The “Fed Minutes” recaps the conversations and debates that transpire during an FOMC meeting, and is published 3 weeks after the meeting adjourns. 

According to the October minutes, FOMC members “generally agreed” that a housing recovery is under way nationwide, citing increased housing prices, higher sales volume, and rising construction in many parts of the country.

FOMC members made no major policy changes at their last meeting, but agreed that a continuation of additional asset purchases would likely be necessary in 2013, in order to achieve a substantial improvement in the labor market.

Other notes from within the Fed Minutes included:

  • On housing: Signs of improvement are “encouraging”, and mortgage rates are at historic lows
  • On inflation: Essentially “unchanged”, notwithstanding recent increases in energy prices
  • On Europe: Production indicators signal contraction in business activity and expansion
  • On employment: Employment is rising, and unemployment remains high

The economic forecast prepared by the FOMC staff shows an uptick in consumer spending, residential construction, and labor market conditions which more than offset recent downgrades in the business fixed investment and the industrial production outlooks.

Through 2013, economic activity is projected to accelerate gradually, supported by a lessening in fiscal policy restraints. The Fed also anticipates that home buyers will benefit from looser credit standards.

Low mortgage rates are helping home buyers, too.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate was 3.34% last week, down from 3.55% in September. This has given a boost to buyer purchasing power nationwide and the year-end housing market may reflect it. Demand for homes remains strong.

The next FOMC meeting is scheduled for December 11-12, 2012.

5 10, 2012

Fed Minutes Detail QE3 Discussion; Mortgage Rates Down

Fed Minutes September 2012The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released Thursday.

The Fed Minutes detail the discussions and debates which shaped the central banker’s launch of its third round of qualitative easing since 2008. The minutes also give Wall Street insight into future monetary policy.

At 6,987 words, the Fed Minutes provides a level of detail that was unavailable via the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, a documen that, by contrast, ran 562 words.

Despite its large word count, there was very little that was new or surprising in the Fed Minutes, though. This is because, since the Fed’s last meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has publicly clarified and re-iterated the Fed’s positions on employment, housing and inflation.

The minutes provide a strong backdrop to his comments, however.

For example, with respect to the jobs market, Fed members deemed employment “disappointing”, noting that growth in payrolls has been slower in 2012 as compared to 2011, and that the expansion rate of today’s job market is too slow to make significant progress against the national unemployment rate.

The Fed Minutes also included the following notes :

  • On housing : Further improvement is occurring, albeit from a “depressed level”
  • On inflation : Risks appear “tilted to the downside”, but energy costs pose risks
  • On Europe : A “slight improvement”, but still a risk to global economic activity

Of greatest interest to home buyers and rate-shopping refinancers, though, was the Fed’s discussion of its QE3 program. The program was introduced to help suppress mortgage rates nationwide which, the Fed believes, will make “broader financial conditions” more accommodative.

The Fed plans to purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly for a “considerable” period of time after the U.S. economy has already shown signs of full recovery and, since the launch of QE3, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are down 19 basis points to 3.36% nationwide, on average.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is scheduled for October 23-24, 2012. 

24 08, 2012

Mortgage Rates Dropping After Release Of Fed Minutes

Fed minutes August 2012Eariler this week, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting which ended August 1, 2012. Since the release, mortgage rates have dropped.

The Fed Minutes are released on a schedule, three weeks after the FOMC adjourns from one of its 8 scheduled meetings of the year.

The Fed Minutes are meeting minutes; like you’d see after a corporation shareholder meeting, or after a condo board meeting. Specifically, the Fed Minutes details the conversations among Federal Reserve members which shape our nation’s economic policy.

The most recent Fed Minutes show a central bank closer to adding new market stimulus that previously believed.

At its last meeting, the Federal Reserve’s debate focused on the rate of economic growth and whether it was occurring too slowly to be long-lasting. The Fed appears to think so. Without a “substantial and sustainable strengthening” in the pace of economic expansion, it said, additional monetary stimulus would be “warranted fairly soon”.

Other notes from within the Fed Minutes included :

  • On employment : Unemployment rates will “decline only slowly”
  • On housing : The market appears “to have improved, somewhat”
  • On inflation : Retail energy costs are keeping consumer prices low

However, the Fed expressed an “unusually high level of uncertainty” about its assessments owing to the ongoing European sovereign debt problems. “Spillovers” remain possible and default threats continue to weigh on markets. 

The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is September 12-13, 2012.

Since the minutes were released — and for the first time this month — mortgage rates made a big move lower. This is in contrast to the rest of August through which mortgage rates have climbed steadily.

According to Freddie Mac, on August 1, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate was 3.49% nationwide. Today, the rate is 3.66%. Between now and the Fed’s next policy-making meeting September 13, though, mortgage rates are subject to change. If today’s mortgage rates fit your budget, consider locking in. 

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