The Fed's release of the minutes for the June FOMC meeting was the most noteworthy economic event last week; the minutes repeated the Fed's recent statement concerning the wind-down of its current monetary easing policy.
The minutes indicated that about half of meeting participants wanted to end the quantitative easing (QE) policy by year end, while "many others" preferred to end the program in 2014.
This split suggests that days are numbered for the Fed's monthly purchase of $85 billion in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The minutes also revealed that the Fed would not be selling off MBS as QE is ended. This would likely prevent additional potential for mortgage rates to increase as demand for bonds would decline when the Fed stops its monthly purchases.
Mortgage Rates Typically Rise When Bond And MBS Prices Fall
U.S. financial markets showed little reaction to the Fed minutes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average saw a quick gain of about 40 points that quickly retreated. The Wall Street Journal interprets the lackluster response to the Fed minutes as investors growing accustomed to the eventual end of the QE program; it's also possible that the markets interpreted the FOMC minutes as "old news," as the minutes contained information included in the Fed statement given after June's FOMC meeting.
The FOMC minutes reported that details of tapering the QE program will be given by Chairman Ben Bernanke during his customary press conference after the Fed presents the FOMC meeting statement. The minutes also asserted that the Fed will closely monitor economic and financial developments as part of their decision-making for ending QE.
The minutes stated that the current Federal Funds rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent will remain in place for some time after QE is ended.
Mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage moved to 4.51 percent from last week's 4.29 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.53 percent from 3.39 percent. Discount points for both types of loans rose from 0.70 percent to 0.80 percent.
Rising mortgage rates suggest that borrowers may soon return to adjustable rate mortgages or hybrids such as the 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage, which was reported at an average rate of 3.26 percent with discount points of 0.70 percent.
What's Coming Up
On Monday, retail sales for June will be released. This is an important indicator for the general economy. Tuesday's news includes NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for July.
On Wednesday, Housing Starts for June will be released. Thursday's news includes weekly Jobless Claims and Leading Economic Indicators. No economic news is scheduled for Friday.