Powell Responds To Legislative Pressure As Feds Hold Rates Steady

By PATRICK LAVERY Saying the economy has surprised even the experts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly four years ago, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday announced that the Fed would hold its ground for now and keep its policy interest rate unchanged at its current range of 5.25% to 5.5%. “We believe that our policy rate is likely at its peak for this tightening cycle and that, if the economy evolves broadly as expected, it will likely be appropriate to begin dialing back policy restraint at some point this year,” Powell said in prepared remarks following the first two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting of 2024. The decision by the FOMC was not unexpected, and…

Predictions: Rate Cuts Unlikely This Week

By PATRICK LAVERY Seven weeks ago, the 2023 slate of policy meetings for the Federal Open Market Committee concluded with members voting to leave the key interest rate unchanged for a third straight time. However, anyone hoping that 2024 will begin with some movement in a downward direction is likely to be disappointed this week. Despite a seemingly positive economic outlook that has the stock market soaring to record highs, the experts seem to agree that there will be no change made when Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell emerges from the FOMC meeting on Wednesday. The stability, so to speak, of the Fed’s policy interest rate has been mirrored somewhat in the housing market recently. According to Freddie Mac,…

Fed Holds Rates Steady As Expected

By PATRICK LAVERY Saying he and the Federal Open Market Committee were “proceeding carefully,” Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell announced that they voted unanimously Wednesday to leave its policy interest rate unchanged for a third straight meeting. This ensures that after more than a year of incremental hikes that eventually saw the key rate spike 5 1/4 percentage points dating back to the beginning of 2022, the target range will, for now, remain at 5.25% to 5.5%. Most experts do not expect the FOMC to start bringing the rate back down again until the third quarter of 2024, owing that to Powell and the Fed’s continuing mandate to bring inflation down to 2%. Total Personal Consumption Expenditures prices rose…

Projections For Monetary Policy Show No Rate Changes

By PATRICK LAVERY Americans were just putting away their families’ Halloween costumes the last time the Federal Reserve Board made an announcement on monetary policy, holding the federal funds rate at a range of 5.25% to 5.5%. Now the nation is well past Thanksgiving and fully focusing on the holiday season and the new year ahead. But even as the seasons change, most experts expect the Fed to once again refrain from taking any action at this week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, slowing a trend of 11 rate hikes since early 2022. The CME Group’s FedWatch, a forecast of interest rates based on Fed funds futures trading indicators, currently hedges a 98.4% chance that the FOMC will vote to…

Fed’s Decision To Hold Steady Welcome News In Mortgage World

By PATRICK LAVERY As experts almost unanimously predicted, the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday held its target range for the federal funds rate at 5.25% to 5.5%, meaning after a year and a half of upheaval, the range will approach the end of 2023 not having budged for more than a third of this year, from the last rate hike at the end of July until at least the Federal Open Market Committee’s next meeting two weeks before Christmas. That may belie the fact that the Fed has raised the rate a total of 5 1/4 percentage points since early 2022, but for now, the stability is welcome news – at least in the housing market. “Mortgage rates fell this…

Watching And Waiting For The Fed’s Next Move

By PATRICK LAVERY When the Federal Open Market Committee meets this week analysts will be looking for signs of what’s next and it may be anyone’s guess. At the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual convention and expo in Philadelphia this month, MBA Chief Economist Michael Fratantoni told attendees that they expect the Feds will maintain the federal funds rate target range and do not expect an increase from them again this year. Fratantoni projected there will be at least two cuts in 2024, and possibly more in 2025. But then Patrick Harker, the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, took the stage the next day and said rates may have to stay high in order for them…

Rate Hike Pause Predicted, Investors Watching Closely For End Of Year Indicators

By PATRICK LAVERY With the end of the third quarter of 2023 in sight, indications are that the Federal Reserve will pause hiking its federal funds rate this week – as it did in June before again raising the target range in July – and investors will be watching closely on Wednesday to see if Chairman Jerome Powell gives any indication as to what they might do to end the calendar year. The FOMC’s course of action, while holding no direct bearing on mortgage rates, acts as a strong indicator of what direction those rates will go in next. According to Business Insider, a pause on the part of the Fed won’t do much to move mortgage rates, currently above…

Questions Linger Before Next Week’s FOMC Meeting

By PATRICK LAVERY When last we heard from the Federal Reserve on interest rates, on June 14, the Federal Open Market Committee agreed not to raise the target range for the federal funds rate for the first time in more than a year. With the Fed’s next meeting now less than a week away, could Chairman Jerome Powell be preparing to announce one of the hikes that he said in June might still be remaining for this year? Or will the FOMC stick to a holding pattern? And how are those developments going to impact a U.S. housing market that Powell has continuously characterized as sluggish throughout 2023? It is predicted that the central bank will deliver a quarter of…

Federal Reserve Pauses Interest Rate Hikes

By PATRICK LAVERY The Federal Open Market Committee called a pause on their rate hikes Wednesday, electing to keep the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged at 5% to 5.25% while continuing to significantly reduce securities holdings. It was not a complete victory lap for Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who told reporters at a press conference that the FOMC overwhelmingly expects to raise interest rates “somewhat further” before the end of 2023. The reason for the future uncertainty in interest rates continues to be inflation, which is still “well above” the Fed’s longer-run 2% goal, according to Powell. The Summary of Economic Projections released concurrently with Wednesday’s announcement kept that 2% target destined for 2025. A survey…

Fed Raises Rates Another Quarter Point as Powell Hints at Possible Pause

By PATRICK LAVERY Incremental but persistent increases in the Federal Open Market Committee’s policy interest rate have now officially entered a second year, with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announcing another quarter-percentage point hike on Wednesday. The target rate is now 5.25%, up five full points since April 2022. Powell reiterated in his prepared remarks that the Fed’s objective is returning inflation to 2%, its historic target. Unfortunately, Powell acknowledged, interest rates remain stubbornly high. Powell said that for the 12 months ending with this past March, total Personal Consumption Expenditures prices rose 4.2%, excluding food and energy prices which tend to be more volatile, while core PCE prices were up 4.6%. “Inflation has moderated somewhat since the middle of…