Fed Minutes Predicts Tapering Of Quantitative Easing Program

Fed Meeting Minutes Display Strong Signs Of Economic ReceoveryHousing Starts exceeded expectations and also beat October’s reading of 889,000. November housing starts were posted at 1.09 million against a consensus of 963,000.

This reading is more in line with the NAHB/Wells Fargo Home builder Market Index, which reached a four month high with December’s reading.

With that threat resolved and a new federal budget passed, builders can now proceed without worrying about setbacks caused by government shutdowns and legislative gridlock.

Building permits issued in November were slightly lower at 1.01 million than October’s reading of 1.04 million. Viewed as an indicator of future construction, and ultimately, available homes, it is not unusual for construction and permits to slow during the winter months.

FOMC Statement And Chairman Bernanke’s Last Press Conference

Throughout 2013, strong signs of economic recovery have led to predictions of the Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program.

As each FOMC meeting approached, analysts predicted that the Fed would start reducing its $85 billion purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities.

The asset purchases are part of the government’s quantitative easing program that was implemented to keep long-term interest rates and mortgage rates low.

The cut finally came on Wednesday as the FOMC made its customary post-meeting statement. Effective in January 2014, the Fed will reduce its monthly purchases by $10 billion.

The QE purchase will be split between $40 billion in Treasury securities and $35 billion in MBS. The Fed expects that the economy will continue recovering at a moderate pace.

The FOMC statement noted that the Fed will continue monitoring inflation, which remains below the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent, and the national unemployment rate, which remains above the Fed’s target rate of 6.50 percent.

The statement noted that asset purchases are not on a predetermined course, and that the Fed will continue to closely monitor labor market conditions, inflation pressure and economic developments in the U.S. and globally.

The Fed did not change its target federal funds rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent, and would not do so at least until unemployment falls to 6.50 percent. Changes to policy accommodation are made with the Fed’s dual goal of achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent and achieving maximum national employment goals.

Bernanke Press Conference

Mr. Bernanke repeated key points of the FOMC statement, and noted that “highly accommodative monetary policy and waning fiscal drag” is helping with the economic recovery, but that the economy has much farther to go before it can be considered fully recovered.

Mr. Bernanke said that FOMC members saw the unemployment rate dropping from 7.00 percent in November 2013 to 6.30 to 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. Improving labor markets and rising household spending were cited as signs of economic recovery.

Mr. Bernanke mentioned concerns about the high unemployment and underemployment rates and said that the Fed’s benchmarks for unemployment and inflation would not automatically trigger reductions in its QE asset purchases.

He also said that the committee did not expect to adjust the target federal funds rate immediately after the national unemployment rate reaches 6.50 percent.

Mr. Bernanke repeated that the Fed’s actions regarding monetary policy and QE would be dependent on in-depth review of ongoing financial and economic developments, but said that further tapering of QE purchases is likely if the economy stays on its present course of moderate improvement.

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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 mortgage professional for a personal review of your mortgage situation.  Give them a call and ask for your private assessment today.

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

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 mortgage professional today.

Fed Meeting Statement Points To Continuing Low Interest Rates

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.