A Look At This Week’s Mortgage Rates : December 3, 2012

Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate mortgage ratesLow mortgage rates are pumping up home affordability.

Average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates made a new all-time low in November, continuing this year Refinance Boom and giving fuel to the budding housing market recovery.

At month-end, Freddie Mac’s survey of 125 banks nationwide put the benchmark product’s rate at 3.32% for borrowers willing to pay 0.8 discount points. This is just 0.01 percentage point above the record-low rate establishing prior to Thanksgiving.

The 15-year fixed mortgage is similarly low, posting 2.64 percent nationwide, on average. This, too, is only slightly higher the all-time low set the week prior.

Falling mortgage rates have helped to offset rising home prices in many U.S. cities. 

Steady job creation and rising consumer confidence has swelled the pool of home buyers nationwide, causing home inventories to shrink and home prices to rise. The improving economy has also led to rising rents and now, within many housing markets, it’s less costly to buy and own a home than to rent a comparable one.

A $1,000 mortgage payment affords a $225,000 mortgage payment in Kent.

Last week, the economy was shown to be improving.

  • The Commerce Department showed that the Gross Domestic Product increased at a 2.7% annual rate in Q3 2012
  • The Labor Department showed first-time unemployment filings dropping by 23,000 claims
  • The Pending Home Sales Index jumped to its highest point since April 2010
  • The Existing Home Sales report showed home sales up 2.1%
  • The Case-Shiller Index showed home values making annual gains 

In addition, Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke said that the central bank will take action to speed economic growth, should the U.S. economy start to side-step. 

This week, there is little on the U.S. economic calendar, save for Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. Wall Street is expecting to see 80,000 net new jobs created in November, and a rise in the national Unemployment Rate to 8.0%.

If the report’s actual results are stronger-than-expected, mortgage rates will likely climb from their all-time lows. If the report comes back weak, rates should stay unchanged.

The Fed Meets Today : Protecting Your Housing Payment

Comparing the 30-year fixed versus the Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee meets today, its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a home buyer or would-be refinancing household in Renton Highlands , get ready for changing mortgage rates.

The Federal Open Market Committee is the 12-person sub-committee within the Federal Reserve that votes on the nation’s monetary policy. Led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the FOMC’s most prominent role is as steward for the Fed Funds Rate.

The Fed has said repeatedly that it intends to keep the Fed Funds Rate near 0.000 for an “extended period of time”, through 2014 at least.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that Seattle mortgage rates will remain low as well. Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Open Market Committee. Mortgage rates are set by Wall Street.

As proof that the Fed Funds Rate is distinct from mortgage rates, consider that, since 2000, the difference between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate has been as wide as 5.25% and as narrow at 0.50%.

If the Fed Funds Rate was tied to mortgage rates, the chart at right would be linear.

That said, the FOMC can influence mortgage rates. 

After its meetings, the FOMC issues a standard press release to the public which reflects the group’s overall economic outlook. When the FOMC statement is generally “positive”, mortgage rates tend to rise in response. This is because investors often assume more risk in an improving economy and this can harm bond market prices — including those for mortgage-backed bonds.

Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative in its statement, mortgage rates can improve.

Since the FOMC’s last meeting, there has been little about which to be negative with the U.S. economy. Housing and manufacturing are improving; employment is higher; and global markets are regaining their respective footing. The Fed may make note of it. Or, it may not.

Regardless, mortgage rates are expected to move so consider locking your mortgage rate ahead of today’s 2:15 PM ET statement.

There too much risk in floating.

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (January 25, 2012)

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

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008.

For the third consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member dissented in the 9-1 vote, objecting only to the language used in the Fed’s official statement.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the the U.S. economy has “expanding moderately” since its last meeting in December 2011, adding that the growth is occurring despite “slowing in global growth” — a reference to ongoing economic uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters but is wary of “strains” from global financial markets, and these three threats to the U.S. economy :  

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. The unemployment rate remains “elevated”
  3. Fixed business investment has “slowed”

On the positive side, the FOMC said that household spending is rising and inflation remains in-check. The group also believes that employment will gradually improve nationwide going forward.

The Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs.

Immediately following the FOMC’s statement, mortgage markets rallied, pressuring mortgage rates to fall in and around Kent. 

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points plus closing costs, conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at below 4 percent. If you’re in the process of buying or refinancing a home in WA , it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate with your lender.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a one-day event slated for March 13, 2012.

Fed Minutes Show An Improving U.S. Economy Threatened By The Eurozone

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 WA were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (December 13, 2011 Edition)

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 Renton 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.

Fed Minutes : A Fed Divided Reaches Comprise

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 Kent 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..

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (September 21, 2011 Edition)

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 WA 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.