FOMC Minutes

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21 11, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Show Hope In Economic Growth

Fed Meeting Minutes Show Hope In Economic GrowthThe minutes of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting held October 29 and 30 were released Wednesday. The meeting began with a report from the Manager of the System Open Market Account and included updates on developments within domestic and foreign financial markets.

According to the report, no intervention by the Federal Reserve was required on foreign currencies during the period between the last and current FOMC meetings.

FOMC: Key Data Delayed by Shutdown

The FOMC noted moderate economic growth in the period since its last meeting, but also noted that several federal agencies delayed release of key statistics due to the government shutdown in early October. The FOMC minutes included updates on several economic sectors including:

Labor: Private non-farm payrolls for September increased at a slower rate than for August and the unemployment rate remains high at 7.20 percent. The FOMC has set a target unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for considering changes to the Fed’s quantitative easing program, which supports lower long-term interest rates and mortgage rates.

A high rate of part-time employment and a slight drop in full-time employment may indicate why would-be home buyers remain on the sidelines. FOMC members noted that while weekly unemployment claims rose during some weeks in October, this was likely fall-out related to the government shutdown.

Manufacturing: Production rose slightly, but was flat other than for motor vehicles. The committee expected to see gains in production in the near term.

Personal Consumption Expenditures: This sector rose in August and retail sales excluding autos were significantly higher in September. Factors impacting consumer spending were mixed. Homeowners enjoyed increasing home prices and home equity, but overall consumer sentiment declined even as disposable income increased in August.

Housing: The committee said that little current data was available for the housing sector due to the shutdown. Building permits and housing starts for single family homes rose in August. After a significant drop in July, sales of new homes rose in August while sales of existing homes fell. Pending home sales also fell during August and September.

Quantitative Easing: FOMC members decided not to alter its current QE program during its September meeting; this caused investors and analysts to revise their expectations for the Fed taking action to reduce its current pace of $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.

Expectations for the total amount of asset purchases under QE were revised upwardly, which suggested that no major changes in current Fed monetary policy is anticipated.

Overall, the minutes of October’s FOMC meeting echoed the committee’s recent perception of moderate economic growth as expressed during its 2013 meetings, and its intention to maintain asset purchases and the target federal funds rate at current levels in the coming months.

19 09, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Expose Mortgage Rates As Remaining Historically Low

Fed Meeting Minutes Expose Mortgage Rates As Remaining Historically LowThe Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve decided not to reduce the Fed’s current quantitative easing program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities.

Going against wide expectations that the Fed would reduce the QE purchases, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that current economic conditions aren’t strong enough to warrant tapering.

The Federal Reserve May Reduce Monthly Securities Purchases

The FOMC, which sets monetary policy for the Federal Reserve has hinted that it might soon reduce the monthly securities purchases, but has also stated that it would closely review emerging economic news and conditions as part of any decision to reduce the securities purchases under QE.

Chairman Bernanke clearly indicated that the decision to reduce asset purchases would be “deliberate and dependent” on economic developments.

He underscored this point by saying that benchmarks for tapering QE purchases “are not triggers, but targets” and that no automatic tapering of QE purchases would be made only because an economic benchmark had been met.

The two benchmarks associated with QE are a national unemployment rate of 6.50 and a target inflation rate of 2.00 percent. The Fed expects that inflation will gradually increase, but is likely to remain below 2.00 percent through 2016.

The Fed chairman noted that the unemployment rate has decreased from 8.10 percent to 7.30 percent year-over-year, he said that the jobless rate remains “unacceptable.”

The current QE program, which involves the monthly securities purchases and keeping the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent was implemented a year ago.

Chairman Bernanke repeated the FOMC position that the federal funds rate would be kept at the current target rate as “no meaningful change can be made.” It’s likely that the federal funds rate will remain at its lowest target level through 2015.

Fed Expects Moderate Economic Improvement

Chairman Bernanke remarked that tight credit policy could be hampering economic recovery and that the FOMC expected a gradual reduction in “financial headwinds” affecting the economy.

After making the post-meeting statement for FOMC, Mr. Bernanke conducted a press conference. His responses to media questions strongly emphasized the Fed’s intention to maintain open communications with the media.

The chairman seemed concerned that the Fed’s prior statements about possible changes to QE had been misunderstood.

The Fed’s decision to maintain QE asset purchases at current levels are expected to help keep mortgage rates low. Although mortgage rates have been rising since May, they remain historically low.

News for housing starts and building permits issued for August support the Fed’s position that economic recovery is lagging behind expectations. Housing Starts came in at 891,000 as compared to expected starts of 921,000, but were higher than July’s reading of 883,000 housing starts.

Building permits for August also fell shy of expectations; 918,000 permits were issued and fell short of the 955,000 expected building permits. 954,000 building permits were issued in July.

11 04, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Reveal Rising Wealth Among Homeowners

Federal Open Market Committee Minutes Released 4-10-2013The minutes for the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held March 19 and 20 were released on Wednesday April 10, 2013.

These periodic meetings by the FOMC cover a wide ranging group of topics that impact the overall economy in the United States.

The decisions made and acted upon from the FOMC meetings often sway the real estate and residential financing markets.

Some highlights of the recent FOMC minutes for the March meeting include:

Jobs and Unemployment Gaining Steam

The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in February.

While lower than the average unemployment rate for Q4 2012, the rates of long-term unemployment and part-time employment for economic reasons saw little change, and both measures remained high.

This suggests that the economy is improving in some areas, while others including employment are not so quick to recover.

Housing Markets Looking Robust

U.S. housing markets continued to improve during the inter meeting period, but construction of new housing faced obstacles including tighter credit and in some areas a lack of available building space.

While housing prices are improving, employment rates and wages will also need to expand for consumers to keep pace with rising home prices.

Some of the Fed Meeting participants continued to be very positive about the prospects of the real estate sector noting rising home prices and demand.

At the same time, an overall tone of restraint and caution was expressed regarding the continuing purchase of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).

Any slowing in the Fed’s commitment to their previous levels of MBS purchases may create upward pressure on home mortgage interest rates.

Personal Finances and Consumer Confidence

Household expenditures rose modestly during January and retail sales, excluding auto sector, increased at a strong pace in February. Sales of light autos also rose.

Household wealth also increased for homeowners due to increases in home values, which is good news for current homeowners and may be an incentive for new home buyers to move forward and purchase real estate.

Recovering Economy Leads Toward Government Spending Pull Back

The FOMC minutes suggest that the Fed is not likely to end its quantitative easing (QE) program immediately, but the first quarter of 2014 was cited as a potential date for the program to end.

Gradual decreases in the Fed’s purchases of bonds and mortgage backed securities are expected before QE ends, and this could cause mortgage rates to rise as MBS prices fall.

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