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.

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.

Mortgage Rates Don't Move With The Fed Funds Rate

Fed Funds rate vs Mortgage Rates 2000-2011Last week, at its 5th scheduled meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its target range near zero percent.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008 and, in its official statement, the FOMC pledged to leave the Fed Funds Rate untouched for at least another 2 years.

This doesn’t mean mortgage rates will be untouched for 2 years, though. 

Mortgage rates and the Fed Funds Rate are two different interest rates; completely disconnected. If mortgage rates and the Fed Funds Rate moved in tandem, the chart at right would be a straight line.

Instead, it’s jagged.

To make the point more strongly, let’s use real-life examples from the past decade.

  • June 2004, 529 basis points separated the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate
  • June 2006, 168 basis points separated the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate

Today, the separation between the two benchmark rates is 407 basis points.

1 basis point is equal to 0.01%.

Between now and mid-2013, when the Fed may begin changing the Fed Funds Rate, the spread between rates will change based on economic expectation — not Fed action (or non-action). If the economy is expected to improve, mortgage rates will rise and the spread will widen.

Should mortgage rates cross 6 percent before the Fed starts raising rates, it will create the widest interest rate spread in history, surpassing the 615 basis point difference set in August 1982. 

At the time, the Fed Funds Rate was 10.12% and mortgage rates averaged 16.27%.

On the other hand, if the economy shows signs of a slowdown for late-2011 and beyond, mortgage rates are expected to drop.

Shopping for a mortgage can be tough — especially in a volatile environment like the current one. Mortgage rates move independent of the Fed Funds Rate. Make sure you’re watching the proper market indicators. It’s your best chance to lock the lowest rate possible.

Mortgage Rates Don’t Move With The Fed Funds Rate

Fed Funds rate vs Mortgage Rates 2000-2011Last week, at its 5th scheduled meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its target range near zero percent.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008 and, in its official statement, the FOMC pledged to leave the Fed Funds Rate untouched for at least another 2 years.

This doesn’t mean mortgage rates will be untouched for 2 years, though. 

Mortgage rates and the Fed Funds Rate are two different interest rates; completely disconnected. If mortgage rates and the Fed Funds Rate moved in tandem, the chart at right would be a straight line.

Instead, it’s jagged.

To make the point more strongly, let’s use real-life examples from the past decade.

  • June 2004, 529 basis points separated the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate
  • June 2006, 168 basis points separated the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate

Today, the separation between the two benchmark rates is 407 basis points.

1 basis point is equal to 0.01%.

Between now and mid-2013, when the Fed may begin changing the Fed Funds Rate, the spread between rates will change based on economic expectation — not Fed action (or non-action). If the economy is expected to improve, mortgage rates will rise and the spread will widen.

Should mortgage rates cross 6 percent before the Fed starts raising rates, it will create the widest interest rate spread in history, surpassing the 615 basis point difference set in August 1982. 

At the time, the Fed Funds Rate was 10.12% and mortgage rates averaged 16.27%.

On the other hand, if the economy shows signs of a slowdown for late-2011 and beyond, mortgage rates are expected to drop.

Shopping for a mortgage can be tough — especially in a volatile environment like the current one. Mortgage rates move independent of the Fed Funds Rate. Make sure you’re watching the proper market indicators. It’s your best chance to lock the lowest rate possible.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 15, 2011

Fed Funds Rates August 2011Mortgage markets improved again last week. The combination of global economic uncertainty plus a dour outlook from the Federal Reserve pushed mortgage bonds to highs for 2011, and drove mortgage rates below their all-time lows.

Bonds were volatile, driven by the stock market’s gyrations.

On 4 consecutive days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved by more than 400 points. Rate shoppers in Ohio had no choice but to go along for the ride. 

The week began with the market’s reaction to Standard & Poor’s U.S. credit rating downgrade. Mortgage bonds caught a boost on the news, and pushing rates lower throughout the day. 

Tuesday, rates idled ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. There was speculation that the Federal Reserve would introduce a new round of economic stimulus but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Fed pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near zero percent until mid-2013, at least.

Mortgage rates dropped on the announcement and continued to drop until they fell to their lowest levels of the year — and of all-time — late Wednesday afternoon.

This proved to be the lowest rates of the week.

Thursday and Friday were marked by better-than-expected jobless figures and an improving Retail Sales number. Mortgage rates rose slightly.

This week, mortgage rates should be equally as volatile. 

In addition to new bailout talks within the Eurozone, there is a bevy of economic data due for release in the U.S., as well as a full Fed speaker docket:

  • Monday : Homebuilder Confidence Survey; Fed President Lockhart speaks
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts; Building Permits
  • Wednesday : Producer Price Index; Fed President Fisher speaks
  • Thursday : Existing Home Sales; Fed President Dudley speaks
  • Friday : Fed President Pianalto speaks

Mortgage rates have been trending lower in recent weeks and there are few reasons to think that trend will reverse. However, mortgage markets can be wildly unpredictable — especially when acted upon by an outside force such as the Federal Reserve or the U.S. government.

Stimulus and rheotoric can change mortgage rates in a hurry.

Therefore, if you see today’s rates and they fit within your budget, consider locking something in. Once rates start to rise, they’re going to rise quickly. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 15, 2011

Fed Funds Rates August 2011Mortgage markets improved again last week. The combination of global economic uncertainty plus a dour outlook from the Federal Reserve pushed mortgage bonds to highs for 2011, and drove mortgage rates below their all-time lows.

Bonds were volatile, driven by the stock market’s gyrations.

On 4 consecutive days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved by more than 400 points. Rate shoppers in Ohio had no choice but to go along for the ride. 

The week began with the market’s reaction to Standard & Poor’s U.S. credit rating downgrade. Mortgage bonds caught a boost on the news, and pushing rates lower throughout the day. 

Tuesday, rates idled ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. There was speculation that the Federal Reserve would introduce a new round of economic stimulus but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Fed pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near zero percent until mid-2013, at least.

Mortgage rates dropped on the announcement and continued to drop until they fell to their lowest levels of the year — and of all-time — late Wednesday afternoon.

This proved to be the lowest rates of the week.

Thursday and Friday were marked by better-than-expected jobless figures and an improving Retail Sales number. Mortgage rates rose slightly.

This week, mortgage rates should be equally as volatile. 

In addition to new bailout talks within the Eurozone, there is a bevy of economic data due for release in the U.S., as well as a full Fed speaker docket:

  • Monday : Homebuilder Confidence Survey; Fed President Lockhart speaks
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts; Building Permits
  • Wednesday : Producer Price Index; Fed President Fisher speaks
  • Thursday : Existing Home Sales; Fed President Dudley speaks
  • Friday : Fed President Pianalto speaks

Mortgage rates have been trending lower in recent weeks and there are few reasons to think that trend will reverse. However, mortgage markets can be wildly unpredictable — especially when acted upon by an outside force such as the Federal Reserve or the U.S. government.

Stimulus and rheotoric can change mortgage rates in a hurry.

Therefore, if you see today’s rates and they fit within your budget, consider locking something in. Once rates start to rise, they’re going to rise quickly.