Interest rate difference between 30-year fixed and Fed Funds Rate 2000-2012

The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from a scheduled 2-day meeting today, its first of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

The FOMC is a designated, rotating, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve, led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Members of the FOMC sub-committee are the voting members of the Federal Reserve; the ones that ultimately determine U.S. monetary policy.

The most well-known Federal Reserve monetary policy tool is the central bank’s Fed Funds Rate. The Fed Funds Rate is the prescribed interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other for a period of one night.

The Fed Funds Rate can only be changed by FOMC vote.

For home buyers and would-be refinancing households in Richmond , it’s important to recognize that the Fed Funds Rate is an interest rate separate and distinct from “mortgage rates”. Mortgage rates are not voted upon by the Federal Reserve. Rather, mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, a security bought and sold among investors.

Historically, there is little correlation between the Fed Funds Rates and 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates throughout Virginia. Going back 20 years, the benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29% and have been as near as 0.52%.

The spread has even gone negative, most recently in 1979 and 1981 — a period marked by high inflation.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is roughly 3.60%. Beginning at 12:30 PM ET, however, that spread is expected to change. The FOMC will make its statement to the press at that time, and will release its quarterly forecast to the markets.

As Wall Street reacts to the Fed’s press release and projections, mortgage rates will move.

Investors expect the Fed to vote the Fed Funds Rate unchanged from its current range near 0.000 percent, but are unsure of how the Fed will characterize the U.S. economy. If the Fed speaks optimistically on the economy, stock markets should rise and mortgage bonds should fall, driving mortgage rates higher.

Conversely, if the Fed shows concern for future economic growth, mortgage rates should drop. Either way, today figures to be volatile one for mortgage markets.

When mortgage markets get volatile, the safe play as a rate shopper is to lock your mortgage rate immediately. There too much risk in floating.

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FOMC Minutes December 2011The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Fed Minutes are a detailed meeting recap; the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known press release.

As a comparison, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting contained 60 paragraphs and 7,027 words. The post-meeting press release was just 5 paragraphs and 382 words.

December’s Fed Minutes shows Fed members with a positive, cautious, take on the economy.

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, the Fed said, but “strains” in global financial markets pose “significant risks” to the downside. This tell us that the Fed believes its economy-stimulating programs are working, but that officials remained concerned by events in the Eurozone.

The U.S. economy could be impacted by fallout. 

Other meeting consensus included : 

  • On growth : The economy is expanding, despite slowing in “global economic growth”
  • On housing : Data suggests the “depressed” market “could be improving”
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and remain within tolerance levels

The Fed’s analysis was of little surprise to Wall Street, and going forward, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to keep it that way. The Fed Minutes contained a passage regarding market communication, and how the Fed will be more pro-active about it in the future. 

With the release of its minutes, in a section called “Market Policy Communications”, the Federal Reserve showed its plans to release 4 times annually its economic forecasts, and plans for the Fed Funds Rate. This signals in a shift in Federal Reserve transparency.

The Federal Reserve will begin including the forecast in its economic projections beginning after its next policy meeting, January 24-25, 2012.

Mortgage rates in Virginia were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.

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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.

The vote was nearly unanimous for the second straight month. Just one FOMC member dissented in the vote, favoring additional policy stimulus beyond what the Federal Reserve currently provides.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve sais that the the U.S. economy is improving, noting that since its November 2011 meeting, the economy has been “expanding moderately”. The Fed also added that domestic growth is occurring despite some “apparent slowing in global growth” — a nod to ongoing uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects a moderate pace of growth over the next few quarters, and believes that the jobs market will continue to improve, but slowly.

Other potential soft spots within the economy include :  

  1. A slowdown in business investment
  2. A “depressed” housing market
  3. Strains in global financial markets

The Federal Reserve added no new policies at its December meeting, and made no changes to existing ones. It re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its current range of 0.000-0.250 percent “at least until mid-2013” and re-affirmed “Operation Twist” — the stimulus program through which the Fed sells Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and uses the proceeds to buy mortgage bonds with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage bonds are mostly unchanged since the Fed’s announcement, giving mortgage rates in Richmond little reason to rise or fall.

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points + closing costs, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at less than 4 percent. If you’re thinking of buying or refinancing a home, it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate.

The FOMC’s next meeting will be its first scheduled meeting of the new year. The meeting is slated for January 24-25, 2012.

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FOMC minutesThe Federal Open Market Committee released its November 2011 meeting minutes, revealing a Fed split on whether new stimulus is needed for the U.S. economy.

The Fed Minutes is published 8 times annually, three weeks after each scheduled Federal Open Market Committee meeting. It’s the official record of the meeting’s policy-shaping debates and dialogues.

The Fed Minutes is the lengthier companion piece to the FOMC’s more well-known, post-meeting press release.

As compared to press release which is concise and focused at 492 words, the Fed Minutes is comprehensive and broad, totalling 7,682 words over 11 pages, complete with charts.

The November minutes reveal Fed opinions on a variety of economic issues :

  • On employment : Unemployment will gradually decline through 2014
  • On housing : The market remains depressed. Foreclosures are “holding back” growth.
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate should remain low until mid-2013

There was also discussion about the government’s revamped HARP program, and how it should help more homeowners get access to low mortgage rates. The Fed sees this as a positive for housing, and for the economy.

There was little in November’s Fed Minutes to surprise Wall Street, however, the Fed did discuss the possibility of new market stimulus, a topic Wall Street expects the FOMC to address next week at its last scheduled meeting of 2011.

Should the Fed introduce new market stimulus next week, and should it arrive in the form of additional mortgage bond purchases, expect for mortgage rates to fall across Virginia and nationwide. If the Fed declines new stimulus, mortgage rates should rise.

The FOMC meets Tuesday, December 13, 2012.

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by | Categories: Federal Reserve | Tagged: , , | No Comments

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

The vote was nearly unanimous, with just one dissenting voter. There were 3 dissenters at each of the FOMC’s last two meetings.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented an improved outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in September, there’s new evidence that the economy “strengthened somewhat” in the third quarter.

One example cited is that consumer and business spending continues to rise while inflationary pressures on the economy remain modest. This indicates controlled growth — a plus in a recovering economy.   

The economy remains slowed by a number of factors, though, as noted by the Fed :

  1. “Continuing weakness” in the labor market
  2. Softness in commercial real estate
  3. A “depressed” housing market

In response to mixed economic conditions, the FOMC opted to “do nothing” today; it introduced no new monetary policy, and revised none of its existing market stimulus. The Fed re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013″ and affirmed “Operation Twist” — the program in which the Fed sells Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and uses the proceeds to buy mortgage bonds with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been negative this afternoon. Mortgage rates throughout Virginia are rising because analysts expected the Fed to launch new, bigger stimulus plans. It didn’t. Rates may drift higher for the new few days, too.

Therefore, it today’s mortgage rates fit your household budget, consider locking in a mortgage rate. Mortgage rates are very low right now, relative to history. It may not last.

The FOMC’s next meeting — its last scheduled meeting of the year — is December 13, 2011.

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Comparing the Fed Funds Rate to Mortgage RatesThe Federal Open Market Committee begins a scheduled, 2-day meeting today, the seventh of its 8 scheduled meetings this year, and the eighth Fed meeting overall.

The FOMC is a 12-person sub-committee within the Federal Reserve. It’s the group responsible for setting the nation’s monetary policy and is led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The FOMC’s most well-known role is as the steward of the Fed Funds Rate. This is the overnight rate at which U.S. banks borrow money from each other. The Fed Funds Rate is a unique, “banking” interest rate, and should not be confused with consumer interest rates, a category which includes “mortgage rates”.

Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Reserve. 

Rather, mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds. If mortgage rates correlated to the FOMC’s Fed Funds Rate, the chart at right would be linear.

That said, the FOMC does exert influence on mortgage markets.

After its FOMC meetings, the Federal Reserve issues a press release to the public. In it, the central banker summarizes economic conditions nationwide, highlighting threats to the economy and areas of strength.

When the Federal Reserve’s statement is generally “positive”, mortgage rates tend to rise. This is because a strengthening economy invites investors to assume more risk, spurring equity markets at the expense of all bonds types, including the mortgage-backed kind.

When bond markets lose, mortgage rates rise.

Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative, bond markets gain, pushing mortgage rates lower throughout Virginia.

The Fed can also influence mortgage rates via new policy.

At its last meeting, the FOMC launched a new, $400-billion round of mortgage-market stimulus known as Operation Twist. The added mortgage-bond support led mortgage rates lower post-FOMC meeting. 

The Fed may expand Operation Twist as soon as Wednesday afternoon. It may also take no such steps at all. Unfortunately, there are few clues about what the Federal Reserve may do next, if anything at all. As a result, mortgage rates will be a moving target for the next 36 hours. First, they’ll be volatile before of the Fed’s statement. Then, they’ll be volatile after the Fed’s statement.

Even if the Fed does nothing, mortgage rates will change so your safest play is to lock a mortgage rate ahead of Wednesday’s 2:15 PM ET adjournment.

There too much risk in floating.

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Fed Minutes

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting September 20-21, 2011.

The release shows a divided Fed in disagreement about the current U.S. monetary policy. The group reached compromise for new economic stimulus, however, and maintained its commitment to accommodative interest rates.

Wall Street reacted tepidly to the minutes. Mortgage rates in Richmond worsened slightly post-release.

The Fed Minutes gets less press than the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, but it’s every bit as important. Because it details the conversations that take place among voting and non-voting Fed members at FOMC meetings, the Fed Minutes is an inside-look at the debates and discussion that lead to new monetary policy.

As examples, here are some of the topics covered at the September FOMC meeting :

  • On growth : Economic growth was slow, but “did not suggest a contraction”
  • On housing : The market continues to be “depressed by weak demand”
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate will remain low until mid-2013

Then, with Fed members divided on whether the central bank should add new stimulus, it reached a compromise instead, launching the $400 billion “Operation Twist” program. Operation Twist is meant to lower longer-term interest rates, including mortgage rates.

Since Operation Twist began, mortgage rates are higher by nearly 0.375%.

Also noteworthy within the Fed Minutes was concern for an economic slowdown and how the Federal Reserve may react. According to the record, a slowdown may prompt the Fed to introduce its third round of qualitative easing, or QE3. An out-sized stimulus plan would likely lead rates higher.

Nothing will happen until the Fed’s next meeting, however. Chairman Ben Bernanke & Co meet next November 1-2 for a 2-day meeting..

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

The vote was 7-3 — the second straight meeting at which the FOMC adjourned with as many 3 dissenters. Prior to that last meeting, there hadn’t been 3 FOMC dissenters since 1992.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented a dour outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in August:

  1. Economic growth “remains slow”
  2. Unemployment rates “remain elevated”
  3. The housing sector “remains depressed”

The Fed also said that there are “significant downside risks” to the economic outlook, tied to strains in the global financial markets.  

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

The Fed noted that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that inflationary pressures on the economy appear to have stabilized. The Fed then re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013”. This means that Prime Rate — the rate to which credit card rates and lines of credits are often tied — should remain unchanged at 3.250 for at least another 2 years.

Furthermore, as expected, the Federal Reserve launched a market stimulus plan aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. The Fed will sell $400 billion in Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and use the proceeds to buy the same with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in Virginia are improving, but note that Wall Street sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market that’s as uncertain as this one.

If today’s mortgage rates and payments fit your household budget, consider locking in a rate. Rates can change swiftly.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair, scheduled for November 1-2, 2011.

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

The vote was 7-3 — the second straight meeting at which the FOMC adjourned with as many 3 dissenters. Prior to that last meeting, there hadn’t been 3 FOMC dissenters since 1992.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented a dour outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in August:

  1. Economic growth “remains slow”
  2. Unemployment rates “remain elevated”
  3. The housing sector “remains depressed”

The Fed also said that there are “significant downside risks” to the economic outlook, tied to strains in the global financial markets.  

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

The Fed noted that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that inflationary pressures on the economy appear to have stabilized. The Fed then re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013”. This means that Prime Rate — the rate to which credit card rates and lines of credits are often tied — should remain unchanged at 3.250 for at least another 2 years.

Furthermore, as expected, the Federal Reserve launched a market stimulus plan aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. The Fed will sell $400 billion in Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and use the proceeds to buy the same with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in Virginia are improving, but note that Wall Street sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market that’s as uncertain as this one.

If today’s mortgage rates and payments fit your household budget, consider locking in a rate. Rates can change swiftly.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair, scheduled for November 1-2, 2011.

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Comparing 30-year fixed to Fed Funds Rate (1990-2011)

The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from a two-day, scheduled meeting today, the sixth of 8 scheduled meetings this year, and the seventh Fed meeting overall.

The FOMC is a designated, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve, led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The FOMC is the voting members for the country’s monetary policy. Among its other responsibilities, the FOMC sets the Fed Funds Rate, the overnight rate at which banks borrow money from each other.

Note that the “Fed Funds Rate” is different from “mortgage rates”. Mortgage rates are not set by the Fed. Rather, they are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, a security traded among investors.

As the chart at top illustrates, the Fed Funds Rate and conforming mortgage rates in Richmond have little correlation. Since 1990, the two benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as close as 0.52 percent.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the national average for a standard, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is roughly 4 percent. This spread will change, however, beginning 2:15 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC adjourns from its meeting and releases its public statement to the markets.

There is no doubt that the Fed will leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current target range of 0.000-0.250%; Fed Chairman Bernanke plans to leave the benchmark rate as-is until at least mid-2013. However, the Fed is expected to add new support for markets.

Unfortunately, there are few clues about how the Fed will support markets, and there is no consensus opinion regarding the size of the said support. As a result, mortgage rates should be bouncy today. First, they’ll be volatile ahead of the Fed’s statement. Then, they’ll be volatile post-Fed statement.

Even if the Fed does nothing, mortgage rates will change. This is because Wall Street is prepping for an announcement and — no matter what the Fed says or does — investors will want to react accordingly.

When mortgage markets are volatile, the safest move is to lock your mortgage rate in. There too much risk to float.

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