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 tenth consecutive meeting, the FOMC vote was nearly unanimous. Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker was the lone dissenter 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, since its last meeting in late-October, the U.S. economy has expanded “at a moderate pace” despite “weather-related disruptions”. It also acknowledged that “strains in global financial markets” remain a threat to U.S. economic growth.

This comment is in direct reference to the Eurozone, its sovereign debt concerns, and its nation’s economies.

The Fed included the following observations in its statement, too :

  1. Growth in employment is expanding but unemployment is elevated
  2. Inflation pressures are stable, and below the Fed’s target range of 2%
  3. Business spending on equipment and structures has slowed

In addressing the housing market, the Fed said that there has been “further signs” of improvement and the group re-affirmed its commitment to the $40-billion monthly QE3 bond buying program.

QE3 is meant to suppress U.S. mortgage rates from rising too high, too quickly.

Lastly, the Federal Reserve announced an explicit economic target for when it will begin to consider raising the Fed Funds Rate from its current target range near 0.000%. When the national Unemployment Rate reaches 6.5%, the Fed said, it will likely move to start raising its benchmark borrowing rate. 

Previously, the Fed had provided only a date-based target of mid-2015.

The 6.5% Unemployment Rate target may be pre-empted by rising inflation rates. The Fed does not expect price pressures to mount prior to jobless rates dropping from the current 7.7% levels, however.

Mortgage rates in San Jose are rising post-FOMC announcement. Many lenders raised mortgage rates mid-day Wednesday in response to the Fed’s statement. 

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event scheduled for January 29-30, 2013.

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The jobs report puts the economy is focusMortgage markets ended the week slightly better last week. Wall Street took its cues from U.S. economic data, from developments in Europe, and from the Federal Reserve, moving mortgage rates lower in California and nationwide.

Pricing for both conforming and FHA mortgage rates improved between Monday and Friday, with the majority of gains occurring late in the week.

The timing of the gains explains why Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate report showed the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate rising this week when, in fact, it did not. Because Freddie Mac conducts its mortgage rate survey at the start of the week, its survey respondents had no time to acknowledge late-week improvements.

Freddie Mac said the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate rose to 3.41% for home buyers and refinancing households willing to pay 0.7 discount points at closing plus a full set of closing costs. 

Mortgage applicants choosing zero-point mortgages should expect a higher rate.

The biggest event of last week was the Federal Open Market Committee’s seventh scheduled meeting of the year. The FOMC’s post-meeting press release described the U.S. economy as growing, and inflation as stable. The Fed re-iterated its pledge to QE3, a stimulus program geared at keeping mortgage rates suppressed. The group also said it would hold the Fed Funds Rate low until at least mid-2015.

Lastly, the Fed showed optimism about the broader U.S. housing market — and for good reason. Since October 2011, housing has trended higher and last week saw the release of the September New Homes Sales report and the September Pending Home Sales Index. Both showed strength.

This week, the market’s biggest story is Friday’s release of the October Non-Farm Payrolls report. Jobs are a keystone in the U.S. economic recovery so the monthly jobs report holds sway over mortgage rates. If the number of jobs created exceeds Wall Street expectations, mortgage rates in San Jose will rise and purchasing power will shrink.

The U.S. economy has added jobs in each of the previous 24 months. 

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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 ninth consecutive meeting, the vote was nearly unanimous. And, also for the ninth consecutive meeting, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker was the lone dissenter 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, since its last meeting six weeks ago, the U.S. economy has been expanding “at a moderate pace”, led by growth in household spending. However, “strains in global financial markets” continue to remain threat to U.S. economic growth, a comment which references to the Eurozone and its economy.

The Fed’s statement also included the following economic observations :

  1. Growth in employment has been slow; unemployment is elevated
  2. Inflation pressures remains stable, and below 2%
  3. Business spending on equipment and structures has slowed

In addition, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that there have been “further signs” of improvement, “albeit from a depressed level”.

Finally, the Federal Reserve re-affirmed its commitment to its most recent stimulus program, a bond-buying program known as QE3.

Via QE3, the Federal Reserve has been purchasing $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly, with no defined “end date”. QE3 is meant to suppress U.S. mortgage rates.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that QE3 will remain in place until the U.S. economy has recovered in full, at least. It’s a plan that may help home buyers in California and nationwide. Since QE3 launched, mortgage rates have moved to new all-time lows.

The Fed also used its meeting to announce that it intends to hold the Fed Funds Rate near its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent until mid-2015, at least.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event and its last of the year, December 11-12, 2012.

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Fed Minutes September 2012The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released Thursday.

The Fed Minutes detail the discussions and debates which shaped the central banker’s launch of its third round of qualitative easing since 2008. The minutes also give Wall Street insight into future monetary policy.

At 6,987 words, the Fed Minutes provides a level of detail that was unavailable via the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, a documen that, by contrast, ran 562 words.

Despite its large word count, there was very little that was new or surprising in the Fed Minutes, though. This is because, since the Fed’s last meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has publicly clarified and re-iterated the Fed’s positions on employment, housing and inflation.

The minutes provide a strong backdrop to his comments, however.

For example, with respect to the jobs market, Fed members deemed employment “disappointing”, noting that growth in payrolls has been slower in 2012 as compared to 2011, and that the expansion rate of today’s job market is too slow to make significant progress against the national unemployment rate.

The Fed Minutes also included the following notes :

  • On housing : Further improvement is occurring, albeit from a “depressed level”
  • On inflation : Risks appear “tilted to the downside”, but energy costs pose risks
  • On Europe : A “slight improvement”, but still a risk to global economic activity

Of greatest interest to home buyers in San Jose and rate-shopping refinancers, though, was the Fed’s discussion of its QE3 program. The program was introduced to help suppress mortgage rates nationwide which, the Fed believes, will make “broader financial conditions” more accommodative.

The Fed plans to purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly for a “considerable” period of time after the U.S. economy has already shown signs of full recovery and, since the launch of QE3, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are down 19 basis points to 3.36% nationwide, on average.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is scheduled for October 23-24, 2012. 

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Jobs report threatens low mortgage ratesMortgage rates dropped to another all-time low last week as concerns for global economic growth helped U.S. home buyers and refinancing households nationwide. 

U.S. mortgage rates responded to non-U.S. events and, for rate shoppers and home buyers in San Jose , home affordability improved.

Early in the week, with Greece and Spain debating new austerity measures, and with citizen protests rampant, a flight-to-quality helped to boost demand for U.S. mortgage bonds. So did rumors of a weakening Chinese economy.

“Flight-to-quality” is a trading term for when investors shun investment risk in favor of safer, more high-quality portfolio assets. Typically, this involves selling stocks and buying bonds, including mortgage-backed ones.

When demand for mortgage-backed bonds rise, mortgage rates tend to fall.

Demand for bonds is also receiving a boost from the Federal Reserve’s latest market stimulus program — QE3.

“QE3” is a shorthand term for the Fed’s third qualitative easing, a program by which the nation’s central banker buys mortgage-backed securities on the open market in hopes of driving mortgage rates down.

So far, it’s been working. Since the Federal Reserve announced QE3 in mid-September, conforming mortgage rates have been on steady decline.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate slipped to 3.40% nationwide last week with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs. The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate moved to 2.73%, also with 0.6 discount points and closing costs. Both rates are at all-time lows.

This week, mortgage rates have a lot of data on which to trade, and may be poised to bounce higher. 

In addition to the release of manufacturing, construction and retail sales reports, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will post its September Non-Farm Payrolls report Friday. More commonly called the “jobs report”, the monthly release takes on added significance now that the Federal Reserve has said that its open-ended QE3 program will be linked to the U.S. jobs economy.

Wall Street expects to see 120,000 net new jobs created in September. If the actual reading exceeds this figure, mortgage rates should rise.

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Existing Home Sales Mortgage markets improved for the second consecutive week last week as demand for U.S. mortgage-backed bonds remained high. A series of economic reports showed strength in housing and a stability in jobs.

Wall Street looked past it, however, to send mortgage rates to their lowest levels in history.

One week into the Federal Reserve’s newest bond-buying program, the stimulus appears to be working.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate slipped to 3.49% last week for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.6 discount points at the time of closing. Discount points are a one-time closing costs where 1 discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

3.49% marks a new all-time low for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. 

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell to a new all-time low last week, too, dropping to 2.77% with the same accompanying 0.6 discount points.

Mortgage rates in California fell despite strong housing data.

  • Housing Starts rose 5.5% to a 2-year high
  • Existing Home Sales rose 7.8% to a 2-year high
  • Building Permits rose 0.2%

Notably, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, the national existing home supply slipped to 6.1 months last month — very close to the 6.0-month marker which separates a “buyer’s market” from a “seller’s market”.

If supplies continue lower, home prices may rise more quickly than expected into 2013. Median home sale prices are already 9.5% higher as compared to one year ago.

This week, more housing data is set for release including the home value-tracking Case-Shiller Index and FHFA Home Price Index. Both are expected to show rising home prices as compared to the last recorded month, and one year ago. In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® releases its Pending Home Sales Index.

Lastly, and likely most important to mortgage rates and home affordability in San Jose , the government releases its Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) report Friday. PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge. An unexpected increase is expected to move mortgage rates higher.

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Fed Funds Rate 2006-2012Mortgage markets improved last week as the Federal Reserve introduced new economic stimulus. The move trumped bond-harming action from the Eurozone, and a series better-than-expected U.S. economic data.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropped last week for most loan types, including for conforming, FHA and VA loans. 15-year fixed rate mortgage rates improved, as well.

Mortgage rates are back near their lowest levels of all-time.

Last week’s main event was the Federal Open Market Committee’s sixth scheduled meeting of 2012. Wall Street expected the Fed to launch a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) after its meeting and the nation’s central banker did not disappoint.

It launched QE3 and did so with such scale that even Wall Street was shocked.

The Federal Reserve announced a plan to purchase $40 billion monthly of mortgage-backed bonds indefinitely, a move aimed at lowering U.S. mortgage rates in order to stimulate the housing market which can create more jobs in construction and other related industries.

The Fed will continue to buy mortgage bonds until it deems such purchases no longer necessary. The Fed also announced a commitment to holding the Fed Funds Rate in its current target range of 0.000-0.250% until mid-2015, at least.

Mortgage rates responded favorably to the stimulus, falling to their lowest levels of the week. It masked a rise in rates from earlier in the week tied to the German court’s clearing of the European Stability Mechanism — the Eurozone “bailout fund”.

The action clears the way for debt-burdened nations including Spain and Greece to get the support necessary to remain solvent.

Mortgage rates were also pressured higher by a strong consumer confidence report. When consumers are more confident in the economy, they may be more likely to spend and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

This week, mortgage rates throughout California face competing pressures. The Fed’s bond-buy has started and that will lead rates lower, but with Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales data set for release, data could pull rates up.

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 Thursday. For the eighth consecutive meeting, the 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 “at a moderate pace” in recent months, led by growth in household spending. However, “strains in global financial markets” remain a significant threat to growth in the near-term, a remark made in reference to the Eurozone and its sovereign debt and recession issues.

The Fed’s statement also included the following economic observations :

  1. Growth in employment has been slow with unemployment elevated
  2. Inflation has been subdued, despite rising gas and oil prices
  3. Business spending on equipment and structures has slowed

In addition, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that there have been signs of improvement, “albeit from a depressed level”.

The biggest news to come out of the FOMC meeting, though, was the launch of the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing (QE3).

QE3 is a program by which the Federal Reserve will purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly, with no defined “end date” for the program. So long as the Fed believes that the market needs support, it will keep QE3 in place.

In the near-term, QE3 is good for San Jose rate shoppers and home buyers. With the Fed in line to buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds each month, demand for bonds is expected to remain strong which, all things equal, leads mortgage rates lower.

We’re seeing this already today. Mortgage pricing is improving post-FOMC, with rates nearing their lowest levels of the week.

The Fed also used its meeting to announce that it intends to hold the Fed Funds Rate near its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent until mid-2015, at least. At its last meeting, the Fed has marked an end-date of “late-2014”.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event, October 23-24, 2012.

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Greece bailout plans revisitedMortgage markets improved last week. Mixed data highlighted the U.S. economy’s slow, steady expansion; the Federal Reserve changed market expectations for the new stimulus; and, sovereign debt concerns moved back to the forefront in Europe.

Conforming mortgage rates fell last week for the first time this month, breaking a 4-week losing streak that had stymied would-be refinancing households in California and nationwide.

Mortgage rates had been higher since the start of August.

In published minutes from its July 31-August 1, 2012 Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the Federal Reserve revealed that, absent “substantial and sustainable” economic growth, many of its members believe further monetary easing would be warranted.

Recent data shows that growth may be sustainable, but it’s hardly substantial. 

  • Job growth is higher in 22 straight months, but averaging less than 100,000 net new jobs per month over the past three months
  • Housing data shows a steady home sales growth, but a dwindling home inventory of new homes and home resales
  • GDP grew 1.5% in Q2 2012, down from 2 percent during the first three months of the year

Should the Fed add new stimulus, it would likely come in the form of a third round of quantitative easing, a program by which the Federal Reserve purchases government-backed bonds on the open market, including mortgage-backed bonds.

The new-found demand for bonds helps raise their respective prices which, in turn, moves down their respective yields.

“QE3” would push mortgage rates lower, likely. It’s not expected to be released (if at all) until the FOMC’s next scheduled meeting, September 12-13, 2012. There is a small chance it’s announced this Friday, however; the Federal Reserve is meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for its annual retreat.

For this week’s rate shoppers, this week is filled with data and rhetoric. New U.S. housing data will be released along with recent inflation statistics. Both have the ability to cause mortgage rates to rise. In addition, second quarter GDP figures will be revisited and revised. If they’re revised lower, Fed-led stimulus may be more likely.

Lastly, Eurozone leaders reconvene to discuss the terms of Greece’s bailout. If terms are changed for the worse for Greece, mortgage rates may drop in a bout of safe-haven buying.

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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. The vote was nearly unanimous.

Only 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 “decelerated somewhat” since January. Beyond the next few quarters, though, the Fed expects growth to “remain moderate” and then gradually pick up.

There was no mention of strain in global financial markets and its threat to the U.S. economy, as the Fed had made in its last two post-meeting press releases.

The Fed’s statement also included the following observations about the economy :

  1. Household spending is “rising at a somewhat slower pace”
  2. Inflation has declined, mostly on lower oil and gas prices
  3. Unemployment rates remain “elevated”

Furthermore, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that, despite signs of improvement, the sector overall remains “depressed”.

The biggest news to come out of the FOMC meeting, though, was that there was no news.

First, the Federal Reserve is leaving its “Operation Twist” program in place. Operation Twist sells shorter-term securities off the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, using the proceeds to purchase longer-term securities. This move puts “downward pressure on longer-term interest rates” and makes “broader financial conditions more accommodative.”

Second, the Fed re-iterated its pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels at least through late-2014.

And, third, to Wall Street’s surprise, there was no announcement of a third round of quantitative easing, a market stimulus plan by which the Federal Reserve buys U.S. treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds on the open market. QE3 would have likely led mortgage rates lower.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for September 12-13, 2012.

Mortgage markets are rising post-FOMC.

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