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Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (August 1 , 2012)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishThe Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Wednesday. The vote was nearly unanimous.

Only one FOMC member, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker, dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. 

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has “decelerated somewhat” since January. Beyond the next few quarters, though, the Fed expects growth to “remain moderate” and then gradually pick up.

There was no mention of strain in global financial markets and its threat to the U.S. economy, as the Fed had made in its last two post-meeting press releases.

The Fed’s statement also included the following observations about the economy :

  1. Household spending is “rising at a somewhat slower pace”
  2. Inflation has declined, mostly on lower oil and gas prices
  3. Unemployment rates remain “elevated”

Furthermore, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that, despite signs of improvement, the sector overall remains “depressed”.

The biggest news to come out of the FOMC meeting, though, was that there was no news.

First, the Federal Reserve is leaving its “Operation Twist” program in place. Operation Twist sells shorter-term securities off the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, using the proceeds to purchase longer-term securities. This move puts “downward pressure on longer-term interest rates” and makes “broader financial conditions more accommodative.”

Second, the Fed re-iterated its pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels at least through late-2014.

And, third, to Wall Street’s surprise, there was no announcement of a third round of quantitative easing, a market stimulus plan by which the Federal Reserve buys U.S. treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds on the open market. QE3 would have likely led mortgage rates lower.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for September 12-13, 2012.

Mortgage markets are rising post-FOMC.

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August 1, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

Case-Shiller Index Shows Home Values Rising Nationwide

Case-Shiller Index May 2012

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, home values rose 2.2% nationwide, with all 20 tracked markets making month-to-month improvement. On an annual basis, 17 of the 20 Case-Shiller Index markets improved.

Despite the positive report, however, our enthusiasm for the May Case-Shiller Index should be tempered. This is because the index’s methodology is less-than-ideal for today’s Scottsdale home buyer.

There are three main reasons why :

  1. The Case-Shiller Index tracks values for single-family homes only
  2. The Case-Shiller Index is distorted by distressed, discounted home sales 
  3. The Case-Shiller Index publishes on a 2-month lag

Perhaps even more important, though, is that the Case-Shiller Index ignores a basic tenet of the housing market — all real estate is local. It’s not possible for 20 cities to represent the U.S. housing market as a whole. Even more egregious is that the 20 markets tracked by the Case-Shiller Index don’t represent the country’s twenty most populated cities.

The Case-Shiller Index specifically excludes home sale data from Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio and San Jose — four of the nation’s 10 most populated cities. Yet, the index does include data from cities such as Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tampa, Florida.

These two cities rank #48 and #55, respectively.

Furthermore, in its 20 tracked cities, the Case-Shiller Index still manages to fail as a reliable housing market barometer. This is because home values vary by zip code, by neighborhood, and by street, even. All 20 Case-Shiller Index cities showed gains in May, but there remains areas within each metropolitan area in which values outpaced the Case-Shiller Index findings, and areas in which values fell short.

The Case-Shiller Index provides broad, generalized housing market data and that works for an economist. For an active home buyer or seller, though, making smart real estate decisions requires having timely, relevant real estate data at-hand when it’s needed. 

For data like that, talk with a real estate agent.

August 1, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment