United States Prime Rate

also known as the Fed, National or United States Prime Rate,
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Odds On A Rate Cut for the October 31 FOMC Meeting Drop to 36% On Release of FOMC Minutes

Earlier today, the Fed released the minutes from the September 18 FOMC monetary policy meeting; the Fed decided to lower the benchmark Fed Funds Target Rate by 50 basis points (0.50 percentage point) on September 18, which caused the U.S. Prime Rate to drop from 8.25% to the current 7.75%. Here are a few clips from those minutes:

...Although employment probably was not as weak as the most recent monthly data had suggested, trend growth in jobs had fallen off even prior to the recent financial market strains, and participants judged that some further slowing of employment growth was likely. Indeed, financial services firms had already announced layoffs, largely reflecting mortgage market developments, the demand for temporary workers appeared to have softened, and the most recent weakening in construction employment was likely to continue for a while. Moreover, if declines in house prices were to damp consumption, that could feed back on employment and income, exerting additional restraint on the demand for housing. Nonetheless, to date, initial claims for unemployment insurance did not indicate a substantial and widespread weakening in labor demand, and labor markets across the country generally remained fairly tight, with several participants citing continued reports of shortages of labor from their contacts in some sectors...

...The housing sector remained exceptionally weak. Home sales had dropped considerably this year: Sales of new and existing single-family homes in July were down substantially from their averages over the second half of last year. Demand was restrained by deteriorating conditions in the subprime mortgage market and by an increase in rates for thirty-year fixed-rate conforming mortgages. In the nonconforming mortgage market, the availability of financing to borrowers recently appeared to have been crimped even further. Most forward-looking indicators of housing demand, including an index of pending home sales, pointed to a further deterioration in sales in the near term. Single-family starts slid in July to their lowest reading since 1996, and adjusted permit issuance continued on a downward trajectory. Although single-family housing starts had come down substantially from their peak, the drop had lagged the decline in demand, and as a result, inventories of new homes had risen considerably. In the multifamily sector, starts in July were in line with readings thus far this year and at the low end of the fairly narrow range seen since 1997. Meanwhile, house prices generally continued to decelerate...

...The Committee agreed that the statement to be released after the meeting should indicate that the outlook for economic growth had shifted appreciably since the Committee's last regular meeting but that the 50 basis point easing in policy should help to promote moderate growth over time. They also agreed that the inflation situation seemed to have improved slightly and judged that it was no longer appropriate to indicate that a sustained moderation in inflation pressures had yet to be shown. Nonetheless, all agreed that some inflation risks remained and that the statement should indicate that the Committee would continue to monitor inflation developments carefully. Given the heightened uncertainty about the economic outlook, the Committee decided to refrain from providing an explicit assessment of the balance of risks, as such a characterization could give the mistaken impression that the Committee was more certain about the economic outlook than was in fact the case. Future actions would depend on how economic prospects were affected by evolving market developments and by other factors...

The Latest Odds

As of right now, the investors who trade in fed funds futures have odds at 36% (according to current pricing on contracts) that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will vote to lower the benchmark Federal Funds Target Rate by 25 basis points at the October 31ST, 2007 monetary policy meeting.

Summary of the Latest Prime Rate Forecast:
  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will be cut to 7.5% after the October 31ST, 2007 FOMC monetary policy meeting: 36% (not likely)
  • NB: U.S. Prime Rate = (The Federal Funds Target Rate + 3) = 7.75%.

The odds related to federal-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. Odds may experience a significant shift on the release of the following economic report:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007: The Labor Department releases the Consumer Price Index report for September.

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