Posts filed under ‘FOMC’

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 Okemos and nationwide.

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

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April 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

The Fed Starts A 2-Day Meeting Today. Make A Strategy.

Fed Funds Rate vs Mortgage Rates 1990-2012

The Federal Open Market Committee begins a 2-day meeting today in the nation’s capitol. It’s the group’s third of 8 scheduled meetings this year. Mortgage rates are expected to change upon the Fed’s adjournment.

Led by Chairman Ben Bernanke, the FOMC is a 12-person, Federal Reserve sub-committee. The FOMC is the group within the Fed which votes on U.S. monetary policy. “Making monetary policy” can mean a lot of things, and the action for which the FOMC is most well-known is its setting of the Fed Funds Funds.

The Fed Funds Rate is the overnight interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other. It’s one of many interest rates set by the Fed.

However, one series of interest rates not set by the Fed is mortgage rates. Instead, mortgage rates are based on the prices of mortgage-backed bonds and bonds are bought and sold on Wall Street.

There is little historical correlation between the Fed Funds Rate and the common, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate.

As the chart at top shows, since 1990, the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate have followed different paths. Sometimes, they’ve moved in the same direction. Sometimes, they’ve moved in opposite directions. 

They’ve been separated by as much as 5.29 percent at times, and have been as near to each other as 0.52 percent.

Today, that spread is roughly 3.65 percent. It’s expected to change beginning 12:30 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC will adjourn from its meeting and release its public statement to the markets.

The FOMC is expected to announce no change in the Fed Funds Rate, holding the benchmark rate within in its current target range of 0.000-0.250%. However, how mortgage rates in and around Lansing respond will depend on the verbiage of the FOMC statement. 

In general, if the Fed acknowledges that the U.S. economy as in expansion; growing from job growth and consumer spending, mortgage rates are expected to rise. If the Fed shows concern about domestic and global economic growth, mortgage rates are expected to fall. 

Any time that mortgage markets are expected to move, a safe play is to stop shopping your rate and start locking it. Today may be one of those times.

April 24, 2012 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 23, 2012

FOMC meets this weekMortgage markets were mostly unchanged last week, breaking a three-week winning streak. Wall Street grappled with surprising demand on Spain’s debt issuance and a series of weaker-than-expected data points on U.S. housing.

Conforming mortgage rates across Michigan rose slightly according to the weekly Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Nationwide, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate climbed 2 basis points to 3.90%. This rate is available to homeowners willing to pay 0.8 discount points and a full set of closing costs, where 1 discount point is equal to 1 percent of the borrowed amount.

Prior to last week’s survey, just 0.7 discount points were required.

This week, mortgage rates are expected to be volatile. There is a lot of economic data due for release, the Eurozone’s issues with sovereign debt remain unresolved, and the Federal Open Market Committee gets together for a scheduled, 2-day meeting.

On the data front, the week starts with Tuesday’s Consumer Confidence figures and the government’s New Home Sales report. Both have the power to move mortgage rates. The week then concludes with the Pending Home Sales Index; the GDP release; and a series of Treasury auctions.

With respect to Europe, demand remains strong for debt from Spain, but at much higher rates as compared to several weeks ago. The same is true for Italy. Both nations are feared to be at risk of default on their respective sovereign debt. It’s a similar situation to that which occurred in Greece throughout 2011.

Long-term, lingering concerns for Spain and Italy would likely help keep U.S. mortgage rates suppressed.

And, lastly, the Federal Reserve will make a statement to markets Wednesday afternoon. The Fed is the nation’s central banker and its post-meeting press releases have tremendous influence on bond markets, including those for mortgage-backed bonds.

By extension, therefore, the Federal Reserve’s statement has the power to move mortgage rates in and around Lansing.

If you’re shopping for mortgage rates, it’s as good of a time as any to lock with your lender. Rates have more room to rise than to fall.

April 23, 2012 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 16, 2012

Retail SalesMortgage markets improved last week as a global flight-to-quality continued. With Spain facing questions on its sovereign debt, investors continued to pare exposure to risky assets, sparking demand for the relative safety of U.S. government-backed mortgage-backed bonds.

As a result, conforming and FHA mortgage rates slipped for the third straight week last week. 

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage available to borrowers in Michigan is down to 3.88% nationwide with an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus “typical” closing costs.

Last week’s reported 3.88 percent rate for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is within one-tenth of one percent of the lowest, average mortgage rates in Freddie Mac survey history. However, the last time conforming rates were reported in this range, the accompanying, required discount points were higher than last week’s 0.7.

Meanwhile, at 3.11% nationwide with 0.7 discount points plus closing costs, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate is equally low. It, too, set a record last week.

It’s a good time to be looking for a mortgage in Lansing. Rates and fees are great.

Last week, markets moved on momentum. This week, they’ll move on data. The economic calendar is busy.

  • Monday : Retail Sales; Housing Market Index
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts
  • Thursday : Weekly Jobless Claims; Leading Indicators; Existing Home Sales

In addition, two Federal Reserve members offer prepared remarks Monday. They will be the last public Fed comments before next week’s 2-day FOMC meeting.

Mortgage rates remain low. Consider calling or emailing your loan officer to learn more about your current financing options.

April 16, 2012 at 8:48 am 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 Michigan 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 Lansing 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 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 19, 2012

Fed Funds Rate 2006-2012Mortgage markets worsened last week as the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee suggested economic recovery may be closer than it originally expected, and that inflation may be a near-term economic concern.

Although the FOMC voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged in its current range near 0.000 percent, its published comments sparked a broad-based mortgage bond selloff.

Conforming mortgage rates throughout Michigan rose sharply post-FOMC, climbing by as much as 0.375%.

If you’ve been shopping for a mortgage rate, the run-up was both untimely and unwelcome.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey, for most of the year, conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates had remained within a tight range near 3.90 percent for mortgage applicants willing to pay an accompanying 0.8 discount points.

This week, though, Freddie Mac is expected to report average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates well north of four percent. It would mark the highest level for the benchmark mortgage rate since mid-December of last year.

There will be a lot more for rate shoppers to watch this week, too. There is a slew of housing data set for release and the heavily-anticipated HARP 2.0 Refinance program “goes live” nationwide.

HARP is a government-led refinance program meant to help underwater homeowners refinance their Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages into new loans at today’s low rates.

The program was first launched in 2009 and helped roughly one million U.S. homeowners. HARP’s newest iteration, though, provides for a more lenient underwriting process that is expected to open the program to an additional 6 million homeowners or more.

Mortgage rates may rise this week as a result of HARP-based loan volume. It may also rise on strength in housing — there are four data points due for release :

  • Monday : Housing Market Index
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts
  • Wednesday : Existing Home Sales
  • Friday : New Home Sales

As in most weeks, it’s less risky to lock a mortgage rate than to float one. Mortgage rates have much room to climb but very little room to fall. If you’re not yet locked, talk to your loan officer and make a plan.

March 19, 2012 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (March 13, 2012)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishTuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

For the fourth consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member 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 the U.S. economy has “expanded moderately” since the FOMC’s January 2012 meeting, adding that growth is occurring despite “strains in the global financial markets” that pose “significant downside risks” to long-term outlooks.

The Federal Reserve now expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters and a gradual easing in the national Unemployment Rate.

The Fed also noted that :

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

With respect to inflation, the Fed said that rising oil and gasoline prices will “push up” inflation temporarily, but not over the long-term.

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 worsened slightly, pressuring mortgage rates higher in and around East Lansing. 

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for April 24-25, 2012.

March 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

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Don Grimes

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Don Grimes
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