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 Henrico 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 Virginia. 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.

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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. 

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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 Henrico remain at all-time lows.

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

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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 Virginia. 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.

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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 Richmond and nationwide.

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

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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 Virginia 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 Midlothian 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.

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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 Richmond. 

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

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Comparing the 30-year fixed versus the Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee meets today, its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a home buyer or would-be refinancing household , get ready for changing mortgage rates.

The Federal Open Market Committee is the 12-person sub-committee within the Federal Reserve that votes on the nation’s monetary policy. Led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the FOMC’s most prominent role is as steward for the Fed Funds Rate.

The Fed has said repeatedly that it intends to keep the Fed Funds Rate near 0.000 for an “extended period of time”, through 2014 at least.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that Richmond mortgage rates will remain low as well. Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Open Market Committee. Mortgage rates are set by Wall Street.

As proof that the Fed Funds Rate is distinct from mortgage rates, consider that, since 2000, the difference between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate has been as wide as 5.25% and as narrow at 0.50%.

If the Fed Funds Rate was tied to mortgage rates, the chart at right would be linear.

That said, the FOMC can influence mortgage rates. 

After its meetings, the FOMC issues a standard press release to the public which reflects the group’s overall economic outlook. When the FOMC statement is generally “positive”, mortgage rates tend to rise in response. This is because investors often assume more risk in an improving economy and this can harm bond market prices — including those for mortgage-backed bonds.

Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative in its statement, mortgage rates can improve.

Since the FOMC’s last meeting, there has been little about which to be negative with the U.S. economy. Housing and manufacturing are improving; employment is higher; and global markets are regaining their respective footing. The Fed may make note of it. Or, it may not.

Regardless, mortgage rates are expected to move so consider locking your mortgage rate ahead of today’s 2:15 PM ET statement.

There too much risk in floating.

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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 Midlothian , 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.

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

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

For the third consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member dissented in the 9-1 vote, objecting only to the language used in the Fed’s official statement.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the the U.S. economy has “expanding moderately” since its last meeting in December 2011, adding that the growth is occurring despite “slowing in global growth” — a reference to ongoing economic uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters but is wary of “strains” from global financial markets, and these three threats to the U.S. economy :  

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. The unemployment rate remains “elevated”
  3. Fixed business investment has “slowed”

On the positive side, the FOMC said that household spending is rising and inflation remains in-check. The group also believes that employment will gradually improve nationwide going forward.

The Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs.

Immediately following the FOMC’s statement, mortgage markets rallied, pressuring mortgage rates to fall in and around Midlothian. 

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points plus closing costs, conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at below 4 percent. If you’re in the process of buying or refinancing a home in Virginia , it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate with your lender.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a one-day event slated for March 13, 2012.

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