Why Are Rates Getting Worse Today? (August 1 , 2012)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishAfter the The Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged this morning, mortgage rates got worse. Why? The vote was nearly unanimous (9-1 vote).

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. Remember, when there is bad news for the economy, rates improve. And when there is good to moderate news, rates get worse (see video explanation).

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.

Right now, rates are trending to the negative, but any news from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BOE) may dictate the way rate markets trade. Our suggestion today is to lock if you are ready to do so with your current lender.

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