Fed Funds Rate Nov 2007 - March 2011The Federal Open Market Committee meets today in Washington D.C. The FOMC is a special group within the Federal Reserve, led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and consisting of 12 members.

The FOMC’s official schedule calls for 8 meetings annually at which it reviews the nation’s economic and financial conditions, and chooses whether to change existing monetary policy.

The group’s last rendez-vous was a 2-day affair, January 25-26, 2011.

Today’s FOMC meeting represents a bona fide risk to home buyers and rate shoppers in Midlothian and across the country. This is because when the Fed meets, Wall Street gets nervous which, in turn, causes mortgage rates to get volatile. And, as mortgage rates go, so goes home affordability. 

Rate shoppers learned this the hard way after the FOMC’s last meeting.

In January, Wall Street deemed the Fed’s status quo message too soft on the looming threat of inflation. As a result, conforming mortgage rates rose through 7 of the next 10 days, driving pricing to its worst levels of the year.

This may happen again beginning today.

At 2:15 PM ET, the FOMC will adjourn and make a press release to the markets. The Fed is expected to keep the Fed Funds Rate near its target range of 0.000 percent, and to keep its $600 billion bond buy program in place. That doesn’t mean mortgage rates will idle, however.

Depending on the verbiage of the Fed’s statement, Wall Street will make its new bets. A tough approach on inflation should push mortgage rates down; a soft approach should pressure rates up. Either way, you may want to lock your mortgage rate prior to 2:15 PM ET — just to be safe.

Once the Fed adjourns, you’re at the market’s mercy.

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FOMC November 2010 MinutesThe Federal Reserve released its January 25-26, 2011 meeting minutes Wednesday afternoon. Virginia mortgage rates have been in flux since.

Fed Minutes are comprehensive recaps of Federal Open Market Committee meetings; a detailed look at the debates and discussions that shape our nation’s monetary policy. As such, they’re released 8 times annually; 3 weeks after the most recent FOMC meeting.

Fed Minutes can be viewed as the unabridged version of the succinct, more well-known “Fed Statement” that’s released to markets immediately post-adjournment.

Just how much more lengthy are Fed Minutes?

  • The January 25-26, 2011 statement contains 395 words
  • The January 25-26, 2011 meeting minutes contains 6,916 words

If the Fed Statement is an executive summary, the Fed Minutes is a novel. And, the extra words matter.

When the Federal Reserve publishes its minutes, it’s offering clues about the group’s next policy-making steps.  As an example, in the January minutes, the Fed improved its outlook for economic growth; lowered its projections for the Unemployment Rate; and removed its concern for deflation.

In addition, the Fed discussed the potential for food-and-energy-cost-induced inflation, but labeled it as a minor economic risk at this point in time.

Bond markets are mixed on the text of the Fed Minutes.

Although the Fed indicates a willingness to allow inflation to occur, it appears ready to act in case inflation goes too high. One way that the Fed responds to rising inflation is to raise the Fed Funds Rate and many economists believe this will start happening by late-2011 or early-2012.

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