Fed Minutes : A Fed Divided Reaches Comprise

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 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..

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

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 Florida 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.

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

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 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.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 12, 2011

Eurozone trouble aids mortgage ratesMortgage markets improved last week as a weakening Eurozone and questions about the U.S. economy sparked a global flight-to-quality. Conforming and FHA mortgage rates improved for the second week in a row.

The storylines should sound familiar by now. They are the same ones that have dictated the path of mortgage rates since April 2011. As a result, according to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates across Florida and nationwide are now at an all-time low.

Not in 50 years of tracking mortgage rates has pricing been so favorable.

Last week’s holiday-shortened week didn’t begin well for rate shoppers. Rates moved higher on the expectation of additional economic stimulus from two separate parts of the government — the Federal Reserve and Congress. 

Wall Street held high hopes for Ben Bernanke’s address to the Economic Club of Minnesota, and for the President’s address to a joint session of Congress. It expected Fed Chief Bernanke to reveal clues about the Fed’s next move; and it expected the President to unleash a massive jobs creation program that would put more Americans to work.

Both outcomes would have harmed mortgage rates as money flowed into stocks. However, neither happened. Bernanke kept mum on the Federal Reserve’s options and the White House announced a jobs program smaller in scope than was expected.

Mortgage rates fell throughout the day Thursday then received a big boost Friday.

Amid rumors of a pending Greek default and the potential credit downgrades of several Eurozone banking groups, safe haven buying picked up and drove mortgage rates down.

Markets open this week with rates lower than they’ve ever been in history.

There isn’t much new data set for release this week so market expectations will continue to set the direction in which mortgage rates go. If concerns for a Eurozone default rise, mortgage rates should fall. Conversely, if Eurozone chatter settles, mortgage rates should rise.

For now, mortgage rates remain at all-time lows and should not be taken for granted. If you see a rate that makes sense for you, consider locking it in.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 6, 2011

Eurozone debt concerns resurfaceMortgage markets improved last week on a weak jobs report, expectation for new market stimulus, growing evidence of a global economic slowdown. Rates were especially volatile, too, with the long Labor Day Weekend looming.

Overall, conforming mortgage rates in Ohio improved for the first time in 3 weeks. On a product-by-product basis, though, mortgage rates are faring differently.

According to the Freddie Mac weekly mortgage rate survey, last week, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged but the 15-year fixed rate mortgage and the 5-year ARM fell.

The 5-year ARM is at a new all-time low for qualified borrowers.

A drop in 5-year ARM rates without a corresponding drop in 30-year fixed mortgage rates signals that markets expect the economy to stabilize over the long-term but with weakness in the near-term. The 5-year ARM’s ultra-low rates suggests marked weakness ahead.

The 5-year ARM may get another boost this week, too.

While U.S. markets were closed for Labor Day, Eurozone nations were hit with new wave of sovereign debt concern, this time centered on Italy. Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already been the subject of debt default debate this year. Italy’s inclusion hit equity market hard and safe-haven buying re-commenced.

This should give a good start to mortgage rates this week. Look for rates to start lower. That’s not to say, however, that they’ll finish the week lower. With very little economic data due for release, markets will move on momentum and momentum can change in a flash.

The two biggest potential market movers both come Thursday. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks in Minnesota at 1:00 PM, and United States President Barack Obama addresses the nation at 7:00 PM. Both speeches are highly anticipated and should cause markets to move.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 6, 2011

Eurozone debt concerns resurfaceMortgage markets improved last week on a weak jobs report, expectation for new market stimulus, growing evidence of a global economic slowdown. Rates were especially volatile, too, with the long Labor Day Weekend looming.

Overall, conforming mortgage rates in Ohio improved for the first time in 3 weeks. On a product-by-product basis, though, mortgage rates are faring differently.

According to the Freddie Mac weekly mortgage rate survey, last week, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged but the 15-year fixed rate mortgage and the 5-year ARM fell.

The 5-year ARM is at a new all-time low for qualified borrowers.

A drop in 5-year ARM rates without a corresponding drop in 30-year fixed mortgage rates signals that markets expect the economy to stabilize over the long-term but with weakness in the near-term. The 5-year ARM’s ultra-low rates suggests marked weakness ahead.

The 5-year ARM may get another boost this week, too.

While U.S. markets were closed for Labor Day, Eurozone nations were hit with new wave of sovereign debt concern, this time centered on Italy. Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already been the subject of debt default debate this year. Italy’s inclusion hit equity market hard and safe-haven buying re-commenced.

This should give a good start to mortgage rates this week. Look for rates to start lower. That’s not to say, however, that they’ll finish the week lower. With very little economic data due for release, markets will move on momentum and momentum can change in a flash.

The two biggest potential market movers both come Thursday. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks in Minnesota at 1:00 PM, and United States President Barack Obama addresses the nation at 7:00 PM. Both speeches are highly anticipated and should cause markets to move.

Fed Minutes : Fed Considered Additional Stimulus In August

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 Ohio 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.