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Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (September 13 , 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 Thursday. For the eighth consecutive meeting, the vote was nearly unanimous.

Just 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 been expanding “at a moderate pace” in recent months, led by growth in household spending. However, “strains in global financial markets” remain a significant threat to growth in the near-term, a remark made in reference to the Eurozone and its sovereign debt and recession issues.

The Fed’s statement also included the following economic observations :

  1. Growth in employment has been slow with unemployment elevated
  2. Inflation has been subdued, despite rising gas and oil prices
  3. Business spending on equipment and structures has slowed

In addition, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that there have been signs of improvement, “albeit from a depressed level”.

The biggest news to come out of the FOMC meeting, though, was the launch of the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing (QE3).

QE3 is a program by which the Federal Reserve will purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly, with no defined “end date” for the program. So long as the Fed believes that the market needs support, it will keep QE3 in place.

In the near-term, QE3 is good for Phoenix rate shoppers and home buyers. With the Fed in line to buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds each month, demand for bonds is expected to remain strong which, all things equal, leads mortgage rates lower.

We’re seeing this already today. Mortgage pricing is improving post-FOMC, with rates nearing their lowest levels of the week.

The Fed also used its meeting to announce that it intends to hold the Fed Funds Rate near its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent until mid-2015, at least. At its last meeting, the Fed has marked an end-date of “late-2014”.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event, October 23-24, 2012.

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September 13, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

FOMC Expected To Announce New Stimulus Today

FFR vs 30-year FRM

The Federal Open Market Committee ends a 2-day meeting today, the group’s sixth of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a Scottsdale home buyer or would-be refinancer, be ready for mortgage rates to change.

The Federal Open Market Committee is a 12-person sub-committee of the Federal Reserve. Led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, it’s the group within the Fed tasked with voting on U.S. monetary policy.

The act for which the FOMC is most well-known is its management of the Fed Funds Rate. The Fed Funds Rate is the interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight. It’s one of several interest rates under Federal Reserve management.

“Mortgage rates”, however, is not among them.

The Federal Reserve does not set or make mortgage rates — Wall Street does. Further, there is no historical correlation between the Fed Funds Rate and the average conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate. At times, the two benchmark rates move in the same direction. Other times, they diverge.

They’ve been apart by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as near as 0.52 percent.

Today, the spread between the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is roughly 3.34%. That will change beginning at 12:30 PM ET today. This is the time at which the FOMC adjourns and releases its public statement to the markets.

The FOMC is expected to announce no change in the Fed Funds Rate, leaving it within its current target range of 0.000-0.250%. How mortgage rates throughout Arizona respond to the Fed, though, will depend on whether the nation’s central banker adds new market stimulus in the form of a third round of quantitative easing.

If the Fed adds new stimulus and it’s deemed large enough to be propel the economy ahead, stock markets will gain and bond markets should, too. This would lead mortgage rates lower. Conversely, if the size of the stimulus is deemed too small to be effective, mortgage rates will rise. Maybe by a lot.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

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 in Arizona 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. 

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

Planning Ahead For The Federal Reserve’s Next Move

Fed Funds Rate v 30-Year Fixed RateIn Washington, D.C. today, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) begins a 2-day meeting, its fifth of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

Mortgage rates are expected to change upon the FOMC’s adjournment. Rate shoppers and home buyers of Scottsdale would do well to be alert.

The Federal Open Market Committee is a rotating 12-person subcommittee within the Federal Reserve. It’s the group which makes U.S. monetary policy. 

“Making monetary policy” has many meanings but the action for which the FOMC is most well-known is its setting of the Fed Funds Funds. The Fed Funds Rate is the prescribed interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight.

Since late-2008, the Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent.

The Fed Funds Rate and Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate move along different paths. Sometimes, the two converge. Other times, they diverge. They’ve been separated by as much as 529 basis points in the past 12 years, and they’ve have been as near to each other as 52 basis points.

Clearly, there’s no correlation between the Fed’s Fed Funds Rate and the common 30-year mortgage. However, with its words, the Federal Reserve can influence the direction in which mortgage rates move — on occasion, by a lot.

We’ll be witness to this Wednesday.

When the FOMC adjourns, it is expected to announce no change in the Fed Funds Rate. Yet, based on the verbiage of the post-meeting statement, mortgage rates will rise or fall accordingly. If the Fed notes that the economy is sagging and that new stimulus is planned, mortgage rates are expected to drop throughout Arizona. This is because new, Fed-led stimulus would be a boon for mortgage markets which would, in turn, drive mortgage rates down.

Conversely, if the Fed acknowledges growth in the U.S. economy and/or little need for new stimulus, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Either way, expect rates to change — we just can’t know in what direction. The FOMC adjourns at 2:15 PM Wednesday.

July 31, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

Fed Minutes Suggest Fiscal Stimulus Later This Year

FOMC Fed MinutesThe Federal Reserve released the minutes from its June Federal Open Market Committee meeting, revealing a Fed divided on the future of the U.S. economy. Mortgage rates are higher after the release of the minutes.

The Fed Minutes is the detailed recap of an FOMC meeting. It is the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known post-meeting FOMC press release.

For a comparison, whereas the Fed’s June 20, 2012 press release contained 5 paragraphs and 490 words, the same meeting’s minutes contain 62 paragraphs and 7,508 words. The extra detail afforded by the extra words Wall Street gives insight into the nation’s central banker.

The June Fed Minutes, for example, suggest that the Fed may soon add new economic stimulus. 

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, but more slowly that it was at the start of the year. The Fed acknowledged that this, in part, is the result of “below-trend” growth in Euro-area economies, plus a general slowdown in China.

The Fed also said that “strains in global financial markets” continue to pose “significant downside risks” to the U.S. economy. The Fed expects U.S. growth to “moderate over coming quarters”.

Other notes from with the Fed Minutes included : 

  • On housing : Home sales, construction and prices suggest improvement
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and inflation will remain “subdued” through 2014
  • On new policy : Rapid fiscal tightening poses a “downside risk” to the economy

In addition, there was discussion about whether the Fed is missing its dual mandate of low inflation and low unemployment. Several Fed member discussed the need for new stimulus to raise employment and to raise the rate of inflation. This action could occur as soon as next month.

If the stimulus was enacted, mortgage rates would likely rise because inflation, in general, is a threat to low mortgage rates.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for July 31-August 1, 2012. 

July 12, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (June 20, 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.

For the fifth consecutive meeting, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just 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 been “expanding moderately” this year. Beyond the next few quarters, the Fed expects growth to “pick up very gradually”. 

In addition, the Fed re-acknowledged that “strains in global financial markets” continue to pose “significant downside risks” to the U.S. economic outlook. This statement is a repeat from the FOMC’s April press release and is in reference to the sovereign debt concerns of Greece, Spain and Italy, plus the potential for a broader European economic slowdown.

The Fed’s statement also included the following economic observations :

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. Labor conditions have “slowed in recent months”
  3. Household spending is “rising at a somewhat slower pace” than earlier this year

With respect to inflation, the Fed said that pressures have declined, led by falling oil and gasoline prices. Longer-term inflation expectations remain stable.

The biggest news of the FOMC meeting is that the Federal Reserve will be extending its “Operation Twist” program. The program sells shorter-term securities on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and uses the proceeds to purchase longer-term securities. This move puts “downward pressure on longer-term interest rates” and makes “broader financial conditions more accommodative.”

The Fed also pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels at least through late-2014.

Mortgage markets are muted post-FOMC. There has been no real change in rates, although that may change later in the day, or weel. Mortgage rates in Phoenix remain at all-time lows.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for July 31-August 1, 2012.

June 20, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

Is More Fed-Led Stimulus On Its Way?

FOMC minutesThe Federal Open Market Committee released its April 2012 meeting minutes this week, revealing a Federal Reserve in the ready in the event additional monetary stimulus is needed.

The Fed Minutes function much like the minutes from a business meeting; or, condominium association meeting, for example. It’s a detailed review of the conversations and debates between FOMC members, and is typically published 3 weeks after a Federal Reserve meeting.  

The Fed Minutes is a follow-up statement on the FOMC’s more well-known, post-meeting press release. It’s also much more lengthy.

Whereas the April 25, 2012 press release totaled 444 words, the Fed Minutes spanned 6,618

Those extra words are important, too, because the detail offered within the Fed Minutes lends insight into how our nation’s central bank views the U.S. economy, its strengths and weaknesses, and its threats.

From the Fed Minutes, some of the Fed’s comments includes :

  • On employment : Unemployment may remain elevated through 2014
  • On housing : Tight underwriting is “holding down” the housing market
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate should remain low until late-2014

There was also substantial talk about Europe and its role in the U.S. economy. Notably, U.S. financial institutions have been actively reducing their European exposure to contain damage in the event of a full-blown economic crisis abroad.

This has had the net effect of lowering mortgage rates in Arizona. Mortgage bonds often benefit from economic uncertainty.

In addition, because several Fed members acknowledged a willingness to add new stimulus to the U.S. economy, mortgage markets are accounting for the possibility it could happen. It’s unclear whether stimulus would be added after the Fed’s next meeting, or at some point later in the year, or at all.

The FOMC has its next scheduled meeting June 19-20, 2012.

May 18, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (April 25, 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.

For the fifth consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just 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. It is expected to remain near-zero through 2014, at least.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has been “expanding moderately” since the FOMC’s last meeting in March. Beyond the next few quarters, the Fed expects growth to “pick up gradually”. 

This key phrase will likely be repeated by the press. It suggests that the economy is no longer contracting; instead moving along a path of slow, consistent expansion.  

In addition, the Fed acknowledged that “strains in global financial markets” continue to pose “significant downside risks” to long-term U.S. economic outlook. This is in reference to the sovereign debt concerns of Greece, Spain and Italy, and the potential for a broader European economic slowdown.

The Fed’s statement included the following notes :

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. Labor conditions have “improved in recent months”
  3. Household spending has “continued to advance”

Also, with respect to inflation, the Fed said that the higher oil and gasoline prices from earlier this year will affect inflation “only temporarily”, and that inflation rates will return to stable levels soon.

At its meeting, the Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs. The Fed re-affirmed its intentions to hold the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels through late-2014, and to buy mortgage-backed bonds in the open market.

Immediately following the FOMC’s statement, mortgage markets improved slightly, pressuring mortgage rates lower in Scottsdale and nationwide.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for June 19-20, 2012.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment

Fed Minutes Causes Mortgage Rates To Rise Suddenly

FOMC Minutes March 2012The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its last FOMC meeting, a 1-day affair held March 13, 2012. Mortgage rates in Arizona are rising on the news.

For the un-indoctrinated, 3 weeks after it meets, the Federal Open Market Committee, the sub-group within the Federal Reserve that votes on U.S. monetary policy, publishes its meeting minutes.

Similar to the minutes from a corporate event, or condominium association meeting, the Fed Minutes recounts the conversations and debates that transpired throughout the meeting.

The Fed Minutes is a lengthy publication, often filling 10 pages or more. By contrast, the more well-known publication from the FOMC — its post-meeting press release — tends to span 6 paragraphs or less.

The extra detail contained within the Fed Minutes is Wall Street fodder, especially given the current economic uncertainty. Investors look to the Federal Reserve for clues about what’s next for the U.S. economy.

Lately, the minutes has made an out-sized impact on mortgage rates. The Fed’s words continue to swing the mortgage-backed bond market.

Today is no different.

March’s Fed Minutes is a dense one and markets are reacting. The text shows a central bank softly divided on future U.S. economic policy, and in debate about whether existing market stimulus should be removed.

The Fed has said that it’s expecting high levels of unemployment and low levels of inflation in the coming months, an outlook that leaves little reason to introduce a third round of stimulus. This is the primary reason why mortgage rates in Scottsdale have been climbing since the Fed Minutes’ release.

Since mid-March, mortgage rates dropped on speculation that the Federal Reserve would introduce a mortgage bond purchase program this quarter. Today, those expectations have reversed.

According to the minutes, the Federal Reserve believes that additional market stimulus would only be necessary “if the economy lost momentum”, or if inflation remained too far below 2 percent per year. Currently, Core PCE — the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation — is running slightly below 2 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is April 24-25, 2012 — its third of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Federal Reserve | , , | Leave a comment