Posts Tagged ‘Federal Funds Rate’

The Feds are halfway there

August 22, 2017

One of the Federal Reserve presidents recently said the Fed was halfway home to raising rates. Currently, the rate sits at 1.25%, and the statement implies the target is 2.5%. The San Francisco Fed President feels a rate of 2.5% is the normal target rate for the US economy.

If true, what does that mean for rates, economy, etc.?

One interesting aspect would be the ability of the Fed to help when the economy experiences another downturn – and it will. The economy rises and falls, and it will slow down again at some point. Before 2008, the Federal Funds rate sat at 5.25%. The Fed lowered the rate to virtually zero to help the economy. What happens the next time there is a down turn, and the rate sits at 2.5%? There wouldn’t be as much room to lower the rate to stimulate the economy. Of course, no one expects another down turn like 2008 to happen.

What about mortgage rates? Since the Feds began raising the Federal Funds rate, mortgage rates have improved every time. The only reason rates haven’t set new historic lows is due to the rapid rise of mortgage rates after the 2016 election. In fact, was the dropping of the Federal Funds rate that helped pushed mortgages rate lower. Over the past 5 months, mortgage rates have been flat. As they are near historic lows, there really isn’t that much more room for improvement. That said, more rate hikes could help push them lower as an increasing Federal Funds rate can help mortgage rates improve.

In the end, it will probably be more of the same when it comes to rates… staying low. That has been the Fed’s goal since the 2008 market crash. They’ve achieved this goal by buying bonds and then several rounds of quantitative easing. Now that the economy has improved, the Fed’s attention turns to keeping inflation in check. They do this by increasing the Federal Funds rate, which helps mortgage rates improve (mortgage rates hate inflation). The Fed continues their goal to keep mortgage rates low. When will rates go up? Honestly, at this point, I don’t think anyone knows. I’ll believe it when I see it!

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Potential Shake Up at the Federal Reserve

August 1, 2017

Janet Yellen’s days may be numbered. She is the current head of the Federal Reserve, and her role is up for renewal by President Trump. While he has been coy in the past about his plans to (or not to) replace her, signs are pointing to the fact he might indeed do so.

Trump has made no secret about his desire for low interest rates. This tends to fuel stock values/growth (something President Trump enjoys), but it could cause problems down the road. It also marks a significant shift in the philosophies of our major political parties:

  • Democrats traditionally want lower rates to encourage job and wage growth.
  • Republicans tend to want the Federal Funds rate to be higher to fight off inflation.

There is another angle to consider: Ammunition for the Federal Reserve when there is another economic down turn. Lowering the Federal Funds rate is a classic monetary policy employed by the Federal Reserve to help stimulate the economy in times of slow growth/recession. We saw the Federal Reserve lower the funds rate after the “.com” bubble burst, and then raise it as the economy recovered. This repeated after the housing collapse, and the Feds are now raising the rate again to have this as a fallback position for next time (there will be a next time). If rates are kept low, the Feds won’t have this as an option. Japan have kept their “federal funds” equivalent at zero for many, many years with little impact. They recently started a “negative” rate policy that has also shown little results in getting their economy back on track.

It is a delicate balance, and will be interesting to see how it plays out.

The question that most people reading this blog want to know is how will this impact mortgage rates. Mortgage rates tend to work in opposite fashion to the Federal Funds rate.

  • the Federal Funds rate directly impacts rates on second mortgages, car loans, credit cards.
  • mortgage rates are determined by the value of mortgage backed security bonds. These bonds (and all bonds) hate inflation. As inflation rises, bond values drop. As bond values go down, mortgage rates go up.

It stands to reason that mortgage rates could improve as the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funding Rate. That is exactly what has happened as the Fed raised rates. Mortgage rates improved after the Federal Reserve raised rates in December 2015. Mortgage rates skyrocketed after the election (when stock prices went up dramatically). Mortgage rates have improved since the Fed began raising the Federal Funds rate again at the end of 2016 and into 2017 (while stock values have been mostly flat/slightly higher).

It will be fascinating to watch how this unfolds as traditional party philosophies, the economy, monetary policy, and mortgage rates all stand to be impacted by the decision.