Posts filed under ‘Inflation’

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

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

Federal Reserve Wary Of European Spillover

FOMC Minutes January 24-25 2012The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its 2-day meeting January 24-25, 2012.

The Fed Minutes is a summary of the conversations and debates that shape our nation’s monetary policy. It receives less attention than the Fed’s more well-known, post-meeting press release, but the Fed Minutes is every bit as important.

To rate shoppers in East Lansing , for example, the Fed Minutes can provide clues about whether mortgage rates will generally rise or fall in the coming months.

The most recent Fed Minutes reveals a central bank divided on the future of the U.S. economy. The minutes show some Fed members in favor of new, immediate market stimulus. It shows others in favor of terminating the stimulus that’s already in place.

The Fed’s debate centered on the topic of inflation, and the pressures that a prolonged, near-zero Fed Funds Rate can place on the economy. Ultimately, the Fed did nothing, neither adding new stimulus nor removing that which is already in place.

It did, however, communicate a plan to keep the benchmark Fed Funds Rate rate “exceptionally low” through late-2014, at least.

The Fed Minutes included the following notes, too :

  • On employment : Unemployment rates will “decline only gradually” in 2012
  • On housing : The market is “held down” by the “large overhang” of distressed homes
  • On inflation : Consumer prices have remained “flat”

Furthermore, the Fed expressed optimism regarding European financial markets, noting that market sentiment “appeared to brighten a bit”. Nonetheless, “spillovers” remain possible and the threat continues to weigh on markets. 

Mortgage rates are slightly worse since the Fed Minutes were released. 

The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is March 13, 2012 — its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

February 24, 2012 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 19, 2011

Fed Funds RateMortgage markets improved last week, but by a slight amount only; not enough to move conventional mortgage rates in Michigan in any significant manner.

Wall Street watched as Eurozone leaders expressed little willingness to increase aid programs within the region, and as the Federal Reserve voted against new economic stimulus for the United States. The Fed Funds Rate remains near 0.000 percent and QE3 was not introduced.

Investors had expected the opposite outcome in both scenarios.

In most weeks, these stories would have led mortgage rates lower. There was, however, a fair amount of data suggesting that the U.S. economy is in recovery, and that tempered any major shifts in markets.

  • Manufacturing data proved to be strong
  • Inflation numbers are heating up
  • Jobless claims continue to drop, week-to-week

In addition, in its last meeting of the year, the Federal Reserve specifically mentioned that the economy has been “expanding moderately”.

These are all good signs for the future of the U.S. economy. Unfortunately, for mortgage rate shoppers and would-be home buyers, it may mean higher mortgage rates ahead.

Since early-November, mortgage rates have idled, moving within a range of less than 2 basis points and centered on 3.99%. According to Freddie Mac, this week’s average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.94% which, at first glance, appears to be a “dip”.

To get access to that rate, however, requires more discount points as compared to prior weeks.

This week’s 3.94% with its accompanying 0.8 discount points is the financial equivalent of last week’s 3.99% with its accompanying 0.7 discount points. Going further, last week’s rates are actually less expensive to mortgage applicants for the first 3 years of a loan because the closing costs are so much lower.

So, given global economic conditions and the mortgage bond market’s status as a “safe market”, the failure of mortgage rates to fall suggests that this may be as low as mortgage rates get. It’s time to look at locking in.

This week is a holiday-shortened week. Markets will close early-Friday and volume is expected to be thin. Therefore, expect exaggerated movements in rates. There are 3 releases related to housing (Housing Starts, Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales) and a consumer sentiment release. 

December 19, 2011 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

Job Growth Returning To "Normal" Levels — A Bad Sign For Mortgage Rates

Job Growth (2000-2011)

Be prepared for Friday morning. Mortgage rates and home affordability could worsen quickly. At 8:30 AM ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its April Non-Farm Payrolls report and momentum has been strong.

The monthly jobs report is a market-mover and analysts expect that 196,000 new jobs were added last month. If those expectations are exceeded — by even a little — Wall Street would take it mean “economic strength” and the stock market would be boosted.

Too bad for rate shoppers, though; a move like that would also lead to higher mortgage rates throughout Michigan. This is because, coming out of a recession, reports of economic strength tend to push mortgage rates up. We’ve seen it happen multiple times in the last 8 months.

Since losing more than 7 million jobs between 2008 and 2009, employers have added 1.3 million jobs back to the economy. And we’re learning that there’s plans for fewer job cuts in the future. It’s clear that the jobs market is improving and this is why tomorrow’s Non-Farm Payrolls report is so important.

A “weak economy” helped keep mortgage rates low for a very long time. A strengthening economy will reverse that tide.

So, consider your personal risk tolerance today, in advance of tomorrow’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. If the thought of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, call your loan officer and lock in a rate today. Once tomorrow’s data is released, after all, the market might look changed.

September 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 18, 2011

Gas prices rising, mortgage rates rising, tooMortgage markets improved last week, buoyed by two days of out-sized gains. Mortgage rates bounced off their 8-week highs on much weaker-than-expected inflation data, and debt concerns abroad.

It’s an abrupt change in mortgage rate momentum.

Since the Federal Reserve’s March 2011 meeting, in which the Fed said rising energy costs are “putting upward pressure on inflation“, inflation chatter has figured big for Lansing  mortgage rates. With each tick higher in gas prices; in every conversation on U.S. debt load; as fruits and vegetables get more expensive at the supermarket, Wall Street’s fears of inflation have grown, and rate shoppers have suffered.

The connection between inflation and mortgage rates is straight-forward. Inflation is the devaluation of the U.S. dollar — the currency in which mortgage bonds are denominated. As the dollar loses values, so do mortgage bonds, therefore, leading mortgage rates to rise, inevitably.

Leading up to last week, concerns peaked and rates did, too. And then, a strange thing happened. The government’s March inflation report showed inflation well under control.

The results surprised Wall Street and the trades that had previously served to pump rate up, last week, ran in reverse.

The biggest gains were made Friday.

This week, inflation takes back-seat to housing data. There’s a lot of it coming.

  • Monday : Homebuilder Confidence Index
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts and Building Permits
  • Wednesday : Existing Home Sales
  • Thursday : Housing Market Index

There’s no data due Friday with markets closed for Good Friday.

This is a holiday-shortened week so expect low trading volume to render rates more erratic than typical. If you’re not yet locked in to a mortgage rate with your lender, consider doing it this week.

September 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

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Don Grimes

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Don Grimes
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