Prime Rate

also known as the Fed, National or United States Prime Rate,
from the interest-rate specialists at www.FedPrimeRate.comSM

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Prime Rate Increase Today: The Prime Rate Is Now 8.25%

Ladies and gents: borrowing just got more expensive. In accordance with all the reliable interest rate predictions and forecasts, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of The Federal Reserve has just raised its target for the benchmark Federal Funds Target Rate by 25 basis points (0.25 percentage point) to 5.25%. Therefore, as of this afternoon, the U.S. Prime Rate is now 8.25%. Many American banks have already issued a press release announcing that their prime lending rate has increased from 8.00% to 8.25%, including:

  • The Bank of America*
  • HSBC*
  • Northern Trust*
  • PNC*
  • Harris N.A.*
  • Dollar Bank*
  • National City*
  • Comerica Bank*
  • Wells Fargo*
  • KeyCorp*
  • U.S. Bancorp*
  • M&T Bank*
  • SunTrust*
  • Wachovia*
  • Sky Financial*

The Fed has raised it's target for the Fed Funds Rate by a quarter-point 17 times in a row since June, 2004, and we may be in for another quarter-point increase after the FOMC adjourns their monetary policy meeting on August 8, if, at that time, the Fed isn't comfortable with the pace of inflation.


Prime Rate Prediction: Forecast for The Prime Rate
According to the latest and most authoritative data from the government, U.S. GDP rose by a strong 5.6% in the first-quarter. Nevertheless, consistently high crude oil prices and the higher cost of borrowing have had a cooling effect on the U.S. economy, and this means that the Fed is somewhat less likely to raise rates again in the future. Investors on Wall Street were quite pleased with the language in today's press release, as evidenced by the strong gains made by the 3 major indices today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gaining a healthy 217 points.

As of right now, Fed Funds Futures traders have odds at about 62% (according to current pricing on contracts) that the FOMC will elect to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate by another 25 basis points to 5.50% at the August 8 monetary policy meeting. Prior to today's rate increase, the odds on another quarter-point rate hike on August 8TH were at about 83%.

Simple Summary of the latest Prime Rate predictions:

  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.50% on August 8, 2006: 62%

The odds related to Fed Funds Futures contracts--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are continually changing, so stay tuned for the latest odds, especially when The FOMC releases the minutes from today's meeting, which should happen on July 20TH, 2006.


Here's a snippet from the press release that was issued by the Fed earlier this afternoon:

"The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to raise its target for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 5-1/4 percent.

Recent indicators suggest that economic growth is moderating from its quite strong pace earlier this year, partly reflecting a gradual cooling of the housing market and the lagged effects of increases in interest rates and energy prices.

Readings on core inflation have been elevated in recent months. Ongoing productivity gains have held down the rise in unit labor costs, and inflation expectations remain contained. However, the high levels of resource utilization and of the prices of energy and other commodities have the potential to sustain inflation pressures.

Although the moderation in the growth of aggregate demand should help to limit inflation pressures over time, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain. The extent and timing of any additional firming that may be needed to address these risks will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information. In any event, the Committee will respond to changes in economic prospects as needed to support the attainment of its objectives.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Susan S. Bies; Jack Guynn; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Jeffrey M. Lacker; Sandra Pianalto; Kevin M. Warsh; and Janet L. Yellen."

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The U.S. Prime Rate Will Rise Tomorrow

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is in the middle of their fourth monetary policy meeting of 2006, and tomorrow the FOMC will raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate, most probably by 25 basis points (0.25 percentage point) to 5.25%; this in turn will cause the U.S. Prime Rate (WSJ Prime Rate) to jump from the current 8.00%, to 8.25%.

A small minority of rate watchers are predicting that the FOMC will raise the Fed Funds Target Rate by 50 basis points tomorrow, but such an aggressive move is not at all likely. A 0.50 percentage point increase tomorrow would be overkill. There's still plenty of home-buying going on, but in certain regions, there's clear evidence that the housing market is starting to cool off. A 25 basis point increase tomorrow, with another 25 basis point increase on August 8TH, should be enough to put the brakes on the economy without shocking the system. Overzealousness on the part of the Fed at this point in time could translate to deflation down the road, or even recession (if negative forces conspire.)


The Latest Forecast for The Prime Rate

According to current pricing on Fed Funds Futures contracts, investors are 100% certain that the FOMC will vote to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate to 5.25% tomorrow. The odds on another 25 basis point increase when the FOMC meets on August 8 are currently at 85%.

Here's a simple summary of the latest Prime Rate predictions:

  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.25% tomorrow: 100% (certain)
  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.50% on August 8, 2006: 85%

The odds related to Fed Funds Futures contracts--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are constantly changing, so stay tuned to this blog for the latest odds. Tomorrow, the odds on Prime Rate increases for August 8, 2006 and beyond may change after investors, academics and economists have a chance to review the customary, post-monetary meeting FOMC press release.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Prime Rate Increase on June 29 Still Fully Expected; Odds On Another Increase on August 8th Now @ 88%

Earlier today, the U.S. New Home Sales report for May, 2006 was released by the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most private and public-sector economists, academics and investors were expecting a decline in new home sales for May, but instead the government reported a 4.6% rise above the numbers from April, 2006.

Everyone--well, everyone who watches interest rates--is trying to figure out when the Fed will end the rate-raising regimen that began in the summer of 2004. Does a relatively hot housing market mean that the Fed is more likely to raise rates at least 2 more times before stopping? You bet! The next two Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy meetings are scheduled to take place on June 28-29, and August 8, 2006. As of right now, chances are we'll have a national Prime Rate of 8.5% when the August 8 meeting adjourns.


The Latest Forecast for The Prime Rate


According to current pricing on Fed Funds Futures contracts, investors are still 100% certain that the FOMC will vote to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate to 5.25% on June 29. The odds on another 25 basis point increase when the FOMC meets on August 8 have jumped from 75%, to 88%, mainly in response to the numbers in today's new home sales report.

Here's a simple summary of the latest Prime Rate predictions:

  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.25% on June 29, 2006: 100% (certain)
  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.50% on August 8, 2006: 88%

Of course, the U.S. Prime Rate can be expressed as:

Prime Rate = (The Fed Funds Target Rate + 3)

Right now, with many Fed officials having voiced concerns about inflation, there's actually a 12% chance--according to current pricing on Fed Funds Futures contracts--that the FOMC will elect to raise the Fed Funds Target Rate by 50 basis points on June 29. But, realistically, a 50 basis point hike is not very likely, as such an aggressive move by the FOMC would mean an increased risk of sending the U.S. economy into recession, and nobody wants that.

Tomorrow, the National Association of Realtors will release their report on Existing Home Sales for May, 2006, and the numbers from tomorrow's report may cause the odds from the Fed Funds Futures trade to shift, so stay tuned!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Prime Rate Increase on June 29 Still Very Likely; Odds On An August 8 Increase Are Rising

Earlier today, the U.S. Commerce Department released the Housing Starts report for May, 2006. The actual number of housing starts for May was higher than Wall Street forecasters were expecting, and now many private and public-sector economists, academics and investors believe that there is an increased likelihood of yet another Prime Rate increase when the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) adjourns the monetary policy meeting that's scheduled to take place on August 8, 2006.

The Fed pays close attention to the nation's housing situation; the Fed is now more likely to raise interest rates in an effort to slow the economy and control inflation, because Americans were buying new homes at an unexpectedly high rate in May.


The Latest Prime Rate Predictions for June 29 and August 8

According to current pricing on Federal Funds Futures contracts, investors are still certain that the FOMC will vote to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate to 5.25% on June 29. The odds on another 0.25 percentage point increase when the FOMC meets on August 8 are now at about 75% as an indirect result of today's housing starts report.

Here's a simple summary of the latest forecasts:

  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.25% on June 29, 2006: 100%
  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.50% on August 8, 2006: 75%

A friendly reminder of the relationship between the Fed Funds Target Rate and The U.S. Prime Rate:

The U.S. Prime Rate = (The Fed Funds Target Rate + 3)


If you plan on borrowing to make a major purchase, now may be a good time to secure the financing, as it looks like the WSJ Prime Rate (the national Prime Rate) is going to hit 8.50% by August 8. Of course, the odds are constantly shifting, so stay tuned for the latest numbers, especially after the government's New Home Sales report on Monday, and the Existing Home Sales report on Tuesday.

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Buyers Beware: The Mortgage Market Is Still Hot, As Is the Prevalence of Mortgage "Traps"

For the past few years, Americans from Maine to California have been taking advantage of the nation's consumer-friendly interest rates and buying new and preowned homes at a frenetic pace.

These days, with interest rates on the rise, you'd think that all the homebuying would start to slow down. But, in fact, Americans are still buying homes at a faster pace than many forecasters have been predicting.

Of course, all these folks who are buying these homes need mortgages, and since the market is hot--and very profitable--many new mortgage companies and brokers have been springing up all across the country. Most of these mortgage companies are OK, but not all, and it is important for any and all mortgage consumers to understand all the different mortgage scams and mortgage "traps" out there, so as to avoid becoming a victim.

The folks at HWC issued a press release today that's filled with some useful facts and information that you should know, especially if you are in the market for some home financing. Bottom line: ignorance is the mortgage scammer's best friend! Details below:

"HWC has published a white paper that reveals little known secrets in mortgage agreements that cost customers thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Some of these traps could cost the consumer their home.

'The mortgage industry is ultra-competitive. To get the business the companies often have to agree to terms that would make the business unprofitable or minimally profitable. But they still need to make money. How do they do it? By putting in subtle traps in the contract that can cost consumers thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the loan. Worse yet, sometimes these traps could cause you to lose your home,' said Roger Noorthoek, president of HWC.

These traps include: hidden fees, excessive and unnecessary insurance charges such as on Private Mortgage Insurance, secret taxes, hidden charges in broker’s fees and very high closing costs due to extra charges. Other traps in mortgage agreements include: sudden and unanticipated increases in interest rates (especially on Adjustable Rate Mortgages) and extra charges on processing or origination fees.

Another trap involves the borrower paying higher monthly payments than they apparently agreed to. This involves giving a low rate (or low monthly payment) and then the mortgage company or bank 'making it up' by charging more on other components of the mortgage such as insurance, taxes or miscellaneous fees.

Finally, and most dangerously, there are clauses in some mortgage contracts that can cause foreclosure even though one is current on their payments. A little known fact is that there are many types of foreclosure other than non-payment of mortgage. These include tax liens, judgment liens and mechanics liens, among others. Some types of liens in certain states can allow an unrelated third party to buy the lien and then foreclose and keep the property--even if the consumer has the money to buy back the lien. Yet, with the correct language in the contract, this problem can be avoided. This problem is worsened by the rapid growth of the mortgage industry and hence the relative inexperience of many mortgage brokers. There are literally dozens of possible traps.

'Mortgage contracts are incredibly complex and they are written by the bank or mortgage company’s attorneys. They know what side their bread is buttered on and it isn’t yours. If you don’t know what you are doing you are almost guaranteed to overpay or worse,' noted Noorthoek."

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Numbers In Today's CPI Report Virtually Guarantee That Another Prime Rate Increase Is Coming On June 29

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers for May, 2006. The CPI, a closely-watched measure of inflation, rose by 0.4% in May, which was what Wall Street forecasters were expecting. However, when food and fuel are factored out of the equation, consumer prices rose by 0.3% in May, while Wall Street forecasters were expecting 0.2%.

What do these numbers mean? Bottom line: right now, inflation is a problem. And when you factor in today's CPI numbers, yesterday's Producer Price numbers, and the fact that many U.S. central bankers recently have expressed concerns about inflation, you've got yourself a recipe for Fed action. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will elect to raise interest rates on June 29. Furthermore, the vast majority of private-sector economists and university academics agree that the Fed will boost interest rates by a quarter point at the end of this month.

Here's some more evidence that inflation is a problem: for the last 3 months, core inflation has been at levels not seen since 1995, and yesterday, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher joined the chorus of central bankers who've expressed concern about the current inflationary outlook for the country.


100% Chance that The Prime Rate Will Rise to 8.25% on June 29

According to current pricing on Federal Funds Futures contracts, the odds that the FOMC will vote to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate on June 29 are now at a confident 100%. Prior to today's CPI report, odds were at about 90%.

If the FOMC votes to raise the Fed Funds Target Rate by 25 basis points on June 29, then the national Prime Rate (Wall Street Journal® Prime Rate) will rise from the current 8.00%, to 8.25%.


Prime Rate Prediction for August 8, 2006

The 4TH FOMC monetary policy meeting for 2006 is scheduled for June 28-29, and, as summarized above, the Prime Rate will most likely rise to 8.25% when the June meeting adjourns.

The 5TH FOMC monetary policy meeting for 2006 is scheduled for August 8, and current pricing on Federal Funds Futures contracts indicate that traders have odds at around 54% that the FOMC will elect to raise the Fed Funds Target Rate to 5.50% at the August meeting. A Fed Funds Target Rate of 5.50% would, of course, translate to a national Prime Rate of 8.50%, because:

The U.S. Prime Rate = (The Fed Funds Target Rate + 3)


If you don't like the long-winded details, then here's a simple summary of the latest Prime Rate predictions:


  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.25% on June 29, 2006: 100%
  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will rise
    to 8.50% on August 8, 2006: 54%

The odds related to Fed Funds Futures contracts--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are constantly changing, so stay tuned to this blog for the latest odds.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Odds Hit 90% That Another Prime Rate Increase Will Occur on June 29

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Producer Price Index (PPI) numbers for May, 2006. The PPI numbers weren't devastating, but combine today's PPI numbers with central bankers' recent comments expressing concern about inflation, and you've got yourself a recipe for another interest rate increase when the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) adjourns their next monetary policy meeting on June 29.

According to current pricing on Federal Funds Futures contracts, the odds that the FOMC will elect to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate on June 29 are now at about 90%. Prior to today's PPI report, odds were at about 86%.

If the FOMC votes to raise the Federal Funds Target Rate from the current 5.00, to 5.25% on June 29, then the U.S. Prime Rate will rise from the current 8.00%, to 8.25%.


The odds related to Fed Funds Futures contracts--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are constantly changing, so visit this blog often for the latest odds. Odds will likely shift again after the Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for May is released tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

How To Qualify for The Best Possible Rate When You Refinance Your Mortgage? For Most Lenders, It's All About Documentation

If you are in the market for a mortgage refinance, it's critical that you have all your documentation ready before you apply for the loan: being well-prepared with the right documentation is key to getting the best possible interest rate with just about any mortgage refinance provider.

For more tips, here's a snippet from today's press release:

"How do you qualify for the best interest rate when refinancing your home mortgage? To lenders, it’s all about documentation. The better you can document your income, assets, and employment, the higher your chances are for getting lowest interest rates. Here are some tips on qualifying for the best rate when refinancing your home mortgage.

When applying for a home loan, you want to have your paperwork in order, ready to be provided to your loan officer. If, for any reason, you are unable to document some of your income or assets, let your loan officer know at the time of the application. You don't want to waist time chasing something that you don't qualify for. You want your loan approved, your rate locked, and your loan funded. Here are some of the most important qualifying criteria.

On conventional loans, your monthly mortgage payment, together with minimum monthly payments on your other financial obligations, such as credit cards and auto loans, can not exceed fifty percent of your gross monthly income. Your income can be verified with your W2 or 1099 forms, or your tax returns. On top of that, you have to verify that you have two months worth of your proposed monthly mortgage payments. Assets must be liquid, such as cash in the bank, 401K, IRA, etc.

If you can not meet all of the above mentioned requirements, you can still qualify for a low rate. But your rate will be slightly higher as you move down the list of available programs:

  • No income, but verifiable assets and employment

  • No income or assets, but verifiable employment

  • No income, assets, and no employment"

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fed Funds Futures Traders Now Have Odds at 82% That Another Rate Hike Is Coming on June 29

Judging by separate comments made by Federal Reserve officials Ben Bernanke, Jack Guynn, William Poole, Thomas Hoenig and Susan Bies since Monday, one thing is quite clear: U.S. central bankers are worried about inflation, so much so that they may vote to raise interest rates, despite the fact that the U.S. economy is slowing.

Will the Fed raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate again on June 29? According to the investors who trade in Federal Funds Futures, the answer is: probably. Following comments made today by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Jack Guynn, odds jumped to 82% (according to this evening's check on current pricing) that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will vote to raise the benchmark Federal Funds Target Rate by 25 basis points (0.25 percentage point.) Two days ago, odds on another increase were at 74%.

If the FOMC elects to raise the Federal Funds Target Rate to 5.25% on June 29, then the national Prime Rate (Wall Street Journal® Prime Rate) will rise from the current 8.00%, to 8.25%.


The odds related to the Fed Funds Futures trade--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are constantly changing, so stay tuned for the latest odds.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Odds On A June 29 Prime Rate Increase Rise to 74% In Response to Today's Comments by Fed Chief Bernanke

Believe it or not, there's been yet another significant shift to the odds on another Prime Rate hike after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meets on June 29, 2006.

Speaking at the International Monetary Conference today, Fed Reserve Chairman Dr. Ben Bernanke made the following comments (snippets below):

"...Consumer price inflation has been elevated so far this year, due in large part to increases in energy prices. Core inflation readings--that is, measures excluding the prices of food and energy--have also been higher in recent months. While monthly inflation data are volatile, core inflation measured over the past three to six months has reached a level that, if sustained, would be at or above the upper end of the range that many economists, including myself, would consider consistent with price stability and the promotion of maximum long-run growth. For example, at annual rates, core inflation as measured by the consumer price index excluding food and energy prices was 3.2 percent over the past three months and 2.8 percent over the past six months. For core inflation based on the price index for personal consumption expenditures, the corresponding three-month and six-month figures are 3.0 percent and 2.3 percent. These are unwelcome developments..."

"...With the economy now evidently in a period of transition, monetary policy must be conducted with great care and with close attention to the evolution of the economic outlook as implied by incoming information. Given recent developments, the medium-term outlook for inflation will receive particular scrutiny. There is a strong consensus among the members of the Federal Open Market Committee that maintaining low and stable inflation is essential for achieving both parts of the dual mandate assigned to the Federal Reserve by the Congress. In particular, the evidence of recent decades, both from the United States and other countries, supports the conclusion that an environment of price stability promotes maximum sustainable growth in employment and output and a more stable real economy. Therefore, the Committee will be vigilant to ensure that the recent pattern of elevated monthly core inflation readings is not sustained..."

Significant comments? You bet! Because, even though Dr. Bernanke acknowledges that the U.S. economy is slowing, his concerns about the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index nevertheless may prompt the Fed chief to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate again on June 29. The decision about interest rates won't be an easy one, because raising interest rates while the economy is slowing has the potential of cooling the economy too much, and nobody wants a <gulp> recession.

Bernanke's comments had a predictable effect on the New York stock markets today, as all 3 major indices retreated, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) losing 199.15 points (crude oil prices contributed to today's bearishness, but I think it's safe to write that Bernanke's comments played the major role.)

The Latest Prime Rate Predictions

As you might have guessed, today's comments by Ben Bernanke have caused Fed Funds Futures traders to react; traders now have odds (according to current pricing) @ 74% that the FOMC will vote to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate from the current 5.00%, to 5.25% at the June 28-29 FOMC monetary policy meeting. Prior to today's comments by Dr. Bernanke, odds were at 48%.

If the FOMC votes to raise the Fed Funds Target Rate to 5.25% on June 29, then the U.S. Prime Rate (Wall Street Journal® Prime Rate) will jump from the current 8.00%, to 8.25%.

Rule of thumb reminder:

The U.S. Prime Rate = (The Fed Funds Target Rate + 3)


The odds related to the Fed Funds Futures trade--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are continually changing, so stay tuned for the latest odds.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Likelihood of Another Prime Rate Hike Decreases On Slowing Job Growth

Earlier today, The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released their Employment Situation report for May, 2006. Though unemployment is still low (many nations around the world would love to have an unemployment rate of 4.6%!), the economy provided for 75,000 new jobs, which was disappointing, as academics and Wall Street forecasters were expecting non-farm payrolls to increase by about 180,000 last month.

With fewer-than-expected jobs added last month, the Fed is now less likely to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate at the next monetary policy meeting on June 29, because the Fed won't have to worry too much about wage inflation: when job seekers are plentiful, there's less pressure on employers to offer relatively higher salaries.

The Latest Odds on Another Prime Rate Increase on June 29

Federal Funds Futures traders now have odds (according to current pricing) @ 48% that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will elect to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate by 25 basis points (0.25 percentage point) at the June 28-29 FOMC monetary policy meeting. Prior to today's Employment Situation report, odds were at 72%.

If the FOMC votes to raise the Fed Funds Target Rate to 5.25% on June 29, then the national Prime Rate (Wall Street Journal® Prime Rate) will increase from the current 8.00%, to 8.25%.


The odds related to the Fed Funds Futures trade--widely accepted as the best predictor of where the FOMC will take the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate--are continually changing, so stay tuned for the latest odds.

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