Latest From : Atlanta RE 5 by 5

Latest From : Atlanta RE 5 by 5

The Federal Reserve's Relationship To Mortgage Rates

Posted: 15 Dec 2009 06:45 AM PST

Interest rate spread between the 30-year fixed rate mortgage and Fed Funds Rate (2000-2009)The Federal Open Market Committee meets today for the last time in 2009. It's a 2-day meeting and the Fed is expected to leave the Fed Funds Rate near 0.000 percent.

But that doesn't mean mortgage rates won't change.

See, a major misperception among the public is that the Federal Reserve sets mortgage rates. That's false. Mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds.

As an example, since 2000, the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage have been within 1 percent of each other at times, and as far apart as 5 percent at others.

If there was a direct relationship between the two, such a spread would be impossible.

The Federal Reserve doesn't set mortgage rates. Wall Street does. However, whenever the Fed adjourns from its meetings, mortgage rates are susceptible to change.

For home buyers and rate shoppers, this week's Fed meeting takes on added significance.

Over the last half-year, the Fed has used its post-meeting press releases to acknowledge an improving economy in which growth is tempered by job loss and tepid spending. In November, though, net job gains nearly went positive and Retail Sales data proved strong.

If the Fed gets more positive in its message tomorrow, mortgage rates will suffer. This is because Wall Street will use the Fed's position on the economy as a reason to buy stocks. Some of the cash to fuel those buys will come from the mortgage bond market.

As extra bond supply hits Wall Street, mortgage rates go up.

Similarly, if the Fed's message goes negative on the economy, investors are expected to sell their stock positions in favor of buying bonds. This makes rates go down.

So, the Federal Reserve doesn't make mortgage rates, but it does exert an influence on them. In other words, rate shoppers would be wise to watch for the FOMC's 2:15 PM adjournment. Even though the Fed Funds Rate is expected to remain unchanged, mortgage rates certainly are not.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 14, 2009

Posted: 14 Dec 2009 06:45 AM PST

The FOMC meets this week -- mortgage rates will be volatileMortgage markets worsened for a second consecutive week last week amid debt default concerns and stronger-than-expected economic data. Dollars left the bond market and mortgage rates suffered.

After re-reaching an all-time low December 1, mortgage rates have since rolled back to mid-November levels.

Rates are still low right now. Just not as low.

And meanwhile, last week's big story -- the one that should concern mortgage applicants between now and early-2010 -- is the story of Retail Sales.

Last week, a government report showed that American consumers are spending more this holiday season than was expected. The Retail Sales data implies that consumers are feeling more confident in themselves, and in the economy overall.

This is one of the last remaining pieces in the economic recovery puzzle. Job growth, of course, is another, and both will be in focus this week as the Federal Open Market Committee meets for its final 2-day meeting of the year.

The FOMC isn't expected to raise the Fed Funds Rate from its current "target range" near 0.000%, but when the FOMC adjourns at 2:15 PM Wednesday, its press release will dominate the news.

Specifically, watch for verbiage on the expected economic growth for 2010 because no matter what the Fed says, mortgage rates will be in flux. As one example:

  • If the Fed says inflation is under control, mortgage rates should fall
  • If the Fed says inflation pressures are growing, mortgage rates should rise

There's other news this week, too, including PPI and CPI -- 2 popular inflation gauges, plus some housing data, too.

If you need to lock a rate this week, it may be safer to lock prior to the FOMC's adjournment. Given the recent strength in Retail Sales and the reports of "crowded malls" this past weekend, the Fed may choose to revise its growth estimates for the economy -- a move that would be awful for mortgage rates.

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