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August 22, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Reflect Support For Reducing QE Program

Fed Meeting Minutes Reflect Support For Reducing QE ProgramThe minutes of last month’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting show significant support for tapering the Fed’s current amount of monthly securities purchases. These purchases, known as quantitative easing (QE), are an effort to maintain lower long-term interest rates including mortgage rates.

The Fed has been buying $85 billion per month in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve and FOMC has hinted at “tapering” the Fed’s securities purchases by year-end in recent statements. The FOMC minutes released Wednesday further suggest that tapering based on strengthening economic trends is likely.

FOMC Members Express Mixed Views

The minutes for the last FOMC meeting, which took place on July 30 and 31, states that many members are “broadly comfortable” with tapering QE securities purchases later this year if the economy continues to improve. At the same time, many FOMC members indicated that it “isn’t yet time” to scale back the purchases.

All along, the FOMC has emphasized that it will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments as part of its decision about when tapering the QE purchases will begin.

The minutes for July’s meeting reflected this sentiment and noted “A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases.”

On the other side of the issue, the minutes note that a few members said that “It might soon be time to slow somewhat the pace of purchases as outlined in the QE plan.”

QE Tapering Not The Only Influence On Mortgage Rates

The Fed is likely to monitor its words as well as economic conditions, as previous announcements about tapering QE made by Chairman Bernanke and FOMC have created havoc in world financial markets.

In relation to mortgage rates, it’s likely that tapering QE purchases will cause mortgage rates to rise. Demand for bonds will fall as the Fed reduces its purchases, falling bond prices usually cause mortgage rates to rise.

It’s important to keep in mind that tapering QE securities purchases is only one among many things that can impact financial markets, mortgage rates and the economy.

While the Fed is expected to begin tapering its securities purchases as soon as September, developing economic news throughout the world can potentially impact mortgage rates and could cause the Fed to revise its timeline for tapering the volume of its securities purchases. 

August 1, 2013

Fed Meeting Statement Positive For Ongoing Mortgage Sector Support

Fed Meeting Statement Positive For Ongoing Mortgage Sector Support

There was potentially good news for mortgage rates on Wednesday as the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced that its quantitative easing (QE) program would remain unchanged for the present.

Economists expect the Fed to begin tapering the amount of QE toward the end of the year in accordance with Chairman Ben Bernanke’s previous statements that “tapering” would likely begin near year-end.

No specific date for reducing the QE assets purchases was given.

Chairman Bernanke has previously indicated that the Fed will closely review domestic and global economic developments as part of its decision-making process for changing the QE program. Wednesday’s FOMC statement reaffirmed this plan.

Fed Cites Economic Expansion and Improving Labor Conditions

The FOMC statement cited modest economic expansion, improving labor markets and continued high unemployment levels as a basis for continuing its current level of QE.

The Fed’s mandate requires it to support price stability and low unemployment; reversals in these or other economic areas could cause the Fed to continue its QE at present levels. At present, economists expect QE to end in mid-2014.

The FOMC statement also indicated that the target federal funds rate will remain between 0.00 and 0.25 percent at least until the national unemployment rate falls to 6.50 percent. Chairman Bernanke did not give a press conference after Wednesday’s statement was released.

Quantitative Easing: Monthly Purchase of MBS, Treasury Securities Intended to Control Mortgage Rates

The Fed currently purchases $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and $45 billion in Treasury securities monthly. These purchases are intended to control long-term interest rates including mortgage rates.

When the Fed begins tapering and eventually concludes these asset purchases, demand for MBS and Treasury securities are expected to fall and their prices will likely fall as well. When prices for bonds include MBS fall, mortgage rates traditionally rise.

With mortgage rates recently moving up, reducing the level of the Fed’s QE asset purchases is cause for concern. Higher mortgage rates make homes less affordable; the combination of rising home prices and mortgage rates presents challenges for first-time home buyers and others without sufficient funds for meeting higher down payments and monthly mortgage payments.

Now would be a very good time to ask your trusted real estate professional for a personal review of your home financing situation.  Give them a call and ask for your private assessment today.

July 11, 2013

FOMC Minutes Reveal Fed May Curb Economic Support Program Before Year End

Category: Federal Reserve – Tags: – Matt Ward 7:54 am

FOMC Minutes Reveal Fed May Curb Economic Support Program Before Year EndFOMC Minutes Suggest QE Tapering by Year-End

The minutes for June’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) suggest that committee members are mostly in agreement that the current quantitative easing program (QE) should begin winding down by year end, but the committee minutes are very clear concerning the committee’s intention to monitor inflation and ongoing economic and financial developments before taking action to reduce the current rate of QE.

The Fed currently purchases $85 billion monthly in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Investors fear that if the Fed rolls back QE too soon or too fast, it could cause long term interest rates such as mortgage rates to rise faster.

The Fed minutes indicate that factors the Fed will continue monitoring before making changes to QE include:

  • Labor market conditions
  • Indicators of inflationary pressures
  • Readings on financial developments

FOMC members also agreed that the Fed would not sell MBS it has accumulated after the economic support program ceases. When the Fed ceases QE, demand for mortgage-backed securities is expected to fall. If the Fed were to sell off MBS holdings in addition to stopping QE, MBS prices could fall sharply. In general, when MBS prices fall, mortgage rates rise.

The FOMC minutes indicate that the Fed intends to maintain the Federal Funds rate at 0.000 to 0.250 percent “for a considerable time after the monthly asset purchases cease.”  To be clear, the minutes do not reveal any specific dates for starting to wind down the program.

Concerns over financial conditions in Europe highlight the Fed’s intention to monitor global economic developments were discussed. Potential “spillover” of negative sentiments in response to Europe’s economic woes to U.S. financial markets were seen as a potential threat to the U.S. economic recovery.

Committee members found that although the economy showed moderate improvement since its last meeting, the national unemployment rate remains high at 7.60 percent. Members also noted that the numbers of long-term unemployed and those working part time jobs but wanting full time jobs remain higher than average. These conditions traditionally keep consumers from buying homes.

Housing: Upside-Down Mortgages Decreasing

Due to rapid increases in home values, the committee noted that fewer homeowners were under water on their mortgage loans. This is good news as homeowners can rebuild household wealth as their home equity increases. Having home equity also provides homeowners with the flexibility to sell or refinance their homes.

While housing is driving the economic recovery, high unemployment will likely keep the Fed from changing its QE policy in the short term.

Now may be a very good time to take advantage of still historically low mortgage interest rates before they rise. If you have specific questions on purchasing or refinancing your home mortgage loan and how these changes may affect you, please contact your trusted real estate professional today.

May 23, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Expose Rising Interest Rate Risk

Fed Meeting Minutes Expose Rising Interest Rate RiskMinutes of the April/May Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) recently released may have a significant impact on mortgage rates going forward.  One significant development from the meeting suggests that the present quantitative easing (QE)  program may be modified in the near future. 

The current QE program involves the Fed purchasing $85 billion per month in mortgage backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds. The Fed’s goal with QE is keeping long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, low.

Considerations mentioned in favor of slowing the current QE program include concerns over “buoyant” financial markets as evidence of a developing economic “bubble”. FOMC members in favor of continuing the current easing program cited fears of economic deflation resulting from cutbacks in QE.

Fed Chief Calls Current Bond Buying Program “Overheated”

In related news, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, in testimony before Congress, characterized the current QE program as “overheating the economy,” but he also stated that slowing economic growth is a worse alternative than continuing the current QE program. Chairman Bernanke noted that QE is supporting financial markets and the economy and indicated that it is not time to reduce the Fed’s support.

Diverse opinions within the FOMC added to the impasse over QE, as one member advocated for immediate tapering of the QE program, while another proposed expanding QE purchases.

The FOMC noted a number of challenges including the national unemployment rate of 7.60 percent at the end of March, that private sector hiring plans were “subdued,” and that jobless claims had trended up during the inter-meeting period.  Among numerous economic positive statistics cited, the Fed noted that consumer spending improved and was driven by higher automotive sales and a drop in fuel prices.

The FOMC minutes reflect that some members had concerns about the ability of consumer spending to hold without notable improvement in hiring and business investment. Businesses contacts of FOMC members were reluctant to plan additional hiring and investing in their businesses based on reports of decreased manufacturing and lower international demand for products.

Good News Revealed About Low Future Inflation Expectations

The Fed predicted modest inflation over the medium term, and expected inflation to remain subdued until 2015. The Fed will maintain its benchmarks for adjusting the Federal Funds Rate and QE based on the national unemployment rate reaching 6.50 percent and the inflation rate reaching 2.00 percent.

The FOMC characterized the improving housing market as responsible for economic improvements for related businesses, but also acknowledged that increasing demand for housing was being caused by low inventories of available homes rather than buyer enthusiasm alone.

Improving home prices and easier consumer credit terms were viewed as contributing to improvement in overall economic conditions. These factors increase household cash flow and provide consumers with more discretionary income for spending.

While the FOMC members did not agree on how or if to revise their current QE policy, it seems likely that the next meeting will bring increased scrutiny of QE and its impact on current economic conditions.

May 2, 2013

Fed Meeting Statement Points To Continuing Low Interest Rates

Category: Federal Reserve – Tags: , , – admin 7:54 am

Fed Meeting Statement Points To Continuing Low Interest RatesWednesday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement indicates the Federal Reserve’s commitment to keeping long term interest rates and inflation under control.

The Fed will continue monitoring inflation, but does not expect inflation to rise more than 0.50 percent above its target rate of 2.00 percent over the next one to two years.

Ongoing monitoring of inflation and unemployment, as well as developing economic news, will guide the Fed in its future determinations concerning policy for its present iteration of quantitative easing (QE3).

Currently, the Fed purchases $85 billion of treasury securities and mortgage –backed securities each month with the goal of keeping long-term interest rates lower.

This includes mortgage rates, which can assist homebuyers with qualifying for mortgage loans in an environment of increasing home prices. Other goals include stabilizing the labor market, and limiting inflation.

Job Growth To Be Determining Factor On Fed Interest Rate Action

The statement also noted that the Fed will keep its interest rates between 0.00 and 0.25 percent, until the Fed sees the national unemployment rate fall below 6.50 percent.

While noting that the housing sector is improving, the Fed stated concerns about ongoing high unemployment rates. Jobs are a key aspect to supporting the economy, as 70 percent of the U.S. economy involves the purchase of goods and services by consumers. 

The Fed also repeated its position to evaluate the efficacy of its quantitative easing program; if the agency finds that the program is not achieving their desired objectives, changes to the program can be expected.

While a clear majority of FOMC members voted to keep current policies intact, one member voted against this course of action citing the potential for continued quantitative easing at current levels to fuel inflation.

The bottom line for today’s statement is that the Fed continues its “wait and see” position concerning quantitative easing and low federal interest rates.The committee also re-asserted its intention to gradually reduce quantitative easing when it’s time for a change.

In addition, the Fed is committed to monitoring a wide range of economic data with an eye toward adjusting its policies in the best interest of economic recovery. 

April 12, 2013

Fed Meeting Minutes Reveal Rising Wealth Among Homeowners

Category: Federal Reserve – Tags: , , – admin 7:53 am

Federal Open Market Committee Minutes Released 4-10-2013The minutes for the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held March 19 and 20 were released on Wednesday April 10, 2013.

These periodic meetings by the FOMC cover a wide ranging group of topics that impact the overall economy in the United States.

The decisions made and acted upon from the FOMC meetings often sway the real estate and residential financing markets.

Some highlights of the recent FOMC minutes for the March meeting include:

Jobs and Unemployment Gaining Steam

The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in February.

While lower than the average unemployment rate for Q4 2012, the rates of long-term unemployment and part-time employment for economic reasons saw little change, and both measures remained high.

This suggests that the economy is improving in some areas, while others including employment are not so quick to recover.

Housing Markets Looking Robust

U.S. housing markets continued to improve during the inter meeting period, but construction of new housing faced obstacles including tighter credit and in some areas a lack of available building space.

While housing prices are improving, employment rates and wages will also need to expand for consumers to keep pace with rising home prices.

Some of the Fed Meeting participants continued to be very positive about the prospects of the real estate sector noting rising home prices and demand.

At the same time, an overall tone of restraint and caution was expressed regarding the continuing purchase of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).

Any slowing in the Fed’s commitment to their previous levels of MBS purchases may create upward pressure on Leominster  home mortgage interest rates.

Personal Finances and Consumer Confidence

Household expenditures rose modestly during January and retail sales, excluding auto sector, increased at a strong pace in February. Sales of light autos also rose.

Household wealth also increased for homeowners due to increases in home values, which is good news for current homeowners and may be an incentive for new home buyers to move forward and purchase real estate.

Recovering Economy Leads Toward Government Spending Pull Back

The FOMC minutes suggest that the Fed is not likely to end its quantitative easing (QE) program immediately, but the first quarter of 2014 was cited as a potential date for the program to end.

Gradual decreases in the Fed’s purchases of bonds and mortgage backed securities are expected before QE ends, and this could cause mortgage rates to rise as MBS prices fall.

March 21, 2013

Fed Meeting Statement Reveals Good News For Real Estate

Category: Federal Reserve – Tags: , , , – admin 7:59 am

Fed Meeting Minutes ReleasedThe Federal Reserve’s statement after yesterday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting left no doubt as to the Fed’s dual commitment to keeping long term interest rates down and encouraging economic growth.

No changes to the Fed’s current bond-buying program were made during today’s FOMC meeting.

The Fed’s monthly purchase of $85 billion in bonds and MBS works by boosting bond prices, which typically helps with keeping mortgage rates lower.

The Fed reaffirmed its position that it will not withdraw or reduce monetary easing until the unemployment rate is substantially lower.

Unemployment Rate Improving Nationally

Fed predictions for the national unemployment rate improved; December’s outlook for 2013 estimated the unemployment rate at between 7.4 to 7.7 percent; the Fed now expects unemployment rates of 7.3 to 7.5 percent by the end of this year.

February’s jobs report likely influenced this revision as the unemployment rate fell from 7.8 to 7.7 percent.

The Fed notes that while employment rates are improving, they remain elevated which supports the Fed’s decision not to modify its bond purchase program in the near term.

Lower unemployment rates suggest that more people will be financially prepared for buying homes or refinancing their existing mortgage loans, and the unemployment rate is also expected to fall due to growing numbers of baby boomers leaving the workforce.

Lower Inflation Rates Boost Consumer Purchasing Power

The Fed slightly revised its December forecast for 2013 economic growth of between 2.3 to 3.0 percent.

Now the Fed predicts economic growth to range between 2.3 and 2.8 percent in 2013, but negative influences including a higher payroll tax and government spending cuts are expected to slow the rate of economic growth.

Concerning inflation, the Fed expects an inflation rate of between 1.3 and 1.7 percent this year and for inflation to remain below 2 percent through 2015.

Lower inflation rates allow consumers more discretionary spending power, which can further boost the economy and improve consumer confidence in making big ticket purchases including homes and related items and services in Massachusetts and around the country.

Fed Keeping Tabs On European Economic Issues

Fed officers are continuing to monitor economic developments in Europe, and expressed concerns that the situation remains fragile.

Commenting in a press conference held after the FOMC meeting, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke characterized economic issues in Cyprus as “difficult”, but said that the Fed doesn’t expect these developments to have major impact on U.S. financial markets.

Its plan to keep short term interest rates near zero until unemployment rates reach 6.5 percent or the inflation rate exceeds 2.5 percent further support the Fed’s plan to keep its monetary easing policy intact for the near term.

Unless unexpected or catastrophic events occur which would cause sudden or rapid economic changes, the Fed appears unlikely to announce major changes in its policy.

January 31, 2013

Breaking Down The Federal Reserve Statement (January 2013 Edition)

Category: Federal Reserve – Tags: , , – Matt Ward 8:45 am

FOMC statementThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted to maintain the Federal Funds Rate within its current range of zero to 0.25 percent, and to continue its current stimulus program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Citing weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy and drought in the Midwest, the committee said in its statement that information received since its December 2012 meeting “suggests that growth in economic activity has paused in recent months in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.”

Concerns over the then-looming fiscal cliff crisis may have also contributed to the economic contraction during the last quarter of 2012. Positive economic trends observed by the Fed included:

  • Improved household spending
  • Improving housing markets
  • Growth in business fixed investments

The Fed initiated its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) in September as part of an ongoing effort to hold down interest rates and to encourage business spending. The benchmark Federal Funds Rate will remain between zero and.0.25 percent until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent and provided that inflation remains stable.

The Fed Funds Rate has stayed near zero since December 2008.

The national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December, and Wall Street expects it to be 7.7 percent for January. The Department of Labor will release its monthly jobs report on Friday; this report includes the monthly unemployment rate. Inflation is expected to remain at or below the Fed’s target level of 2.0 percent or less for the medium-term.

While noting that “strains on global financial markets have eased somewhat,” the FOMC said that it “continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook.” Low overall interest rates and gradual inflation work in favor of home buyers as home prices and mortgage rates are likely to rise at a gradual pace.

Mortgage rates in Leominster improved slightly after the FOMC release.

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