United States Prime Rate

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Futures Market 100% Certain U.S. Prime Rate Will Hold At 3.25% After The December 15 FOMC Monetary Policy Meeting

prime rate forecast
If you've been wondering when the Fed is going to start a cycle of raising short-term interest rates, the one macroeconomic figure you need to pay attention to is the unemployment rate. That's because the Bernanke Fed is confident that the nation's jobless rate is going to remain stubbornly high well into 2010 and likely beyond, which in turn will serve as a check on inflation. The Fed is still focused on pumping as much stimulus into the economy as it possibly can, to get the economy back to durable growth as soon as possible. It doesn't want to choke off an economic recover by raising short-term rates too soon, but it also doesn't want to keep rates too low for too long, and spark and raging inflation problem down the road. But here's the bottom line: the Fed believes that high unemployment together with continued housing market woes will act as a powerful economic sedative, keeping both consumer and wholesale prices under control.

Many investors are worried that the Fed is going to have an economic growth bias for too long, and that it will tolerate some inflation in exchange for growth. Just look at the price of gold as one piece of evidence: New York Spot was at $816.30 on November 28, 2008, and closed at $1,176.70 a few days ago (on November 27, 2009.)

Many are also worried about the current state of the dollar, but I'm not. The dollar is cyclical. It's been very low before, and has bounced back every time. When the economy returns to sustainable growth and the Fed back off from being the dominant force in the economy, the dollar will strengthen again, as simple as that.

So, does the Fed have it right about weak employment keeping inflation in check? I think so. With so many Americans out of work, or struggling with reduced hours, or forced to work part-time, consumer spending will be weak for some time. Exacerbating the jobs problem: too many homeowners are upside down with their mortgage; if they sell they lose big, and there's no home equity to tap into, the same home equity which supported strong consumer spending before the housing bust.

The above economic woes are acting as a strong disinflationary force in the economy, and will continue doing so for years -- yes, years.

So don't be surprised if the Fed keeps short-term rates -- including the U.S. Prime Rate -- at superlow levels throughout 2010.

Of course, for the latest and most accurate rate forecast, stay tuned to this blog.

Housing Market News: Some Good, Some Bad

OK, first the bad. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) recently reported that mortgage delinquencies have set a new record high. Here's a clip from the MBA press release:

"...The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 9.64 percent of all loans outstanding as of the end of the third quarter of 2009, up 40 basis points from the second quarter of 2009, and up 265 basis points from one year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) National Delinquency Survey. The non-seasonally adjusted delinquency rate increased 108 basis points from 8.86 percent in the second quarter of 2009 to 9.94 percent this quarter...The delinquency rate breaks the record set last quarter. The records are based on MBA data dating back to 1972..."

And now the good: sales of both existing (preowned) and newly built homes improved during October 2009, thanks in no small part to Uncle Sammy's $8,000, first-time homebuyer tax credit (there's also a tax credit of up to $6,500 available for longtime homeowners who purchase a replacement home.) That's good news for the housing market in general, but there's more: the credit has been extended. For more, check out this IRS page.


As of right now, the investors who trade in fed funds futures at the Chicago Board of Trade have odds at 100% (as implied by current pricing on contracts) that the FOMC will vote to leave the benchmark target range for the Federal Funds Rate at its current level at the December 15TH, 2009 monetary policy meeting.

Summary of the Latest Prime Rate Forecast:
  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will remain at the current 3.25% after the December 15TH, 2009 FOMC monetary policy meeting is adjourned: 100% (certain)
  • NB: U.S. Prime Rate = (The Federal Funds Target Rate + 3)

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 constantly changing, so stay tuned for the latest odds.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Seventh FOMC Meeting of 2009 Adjourned: U.S. Prime Rate Holds At 3.25%

FOMC votes to leave short-term rates unchanged; Prime Rate holds at 3.25%The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve has just adjourned its seventh monetary policy meeting of 2009 and, in accordance with our most recent forecast, has voted to leave short-term interest rates at their current levels. Therefore, the benchmark target range for the federal funds rate will remain at 0% - 0.25%, and the Wall Street Journal® Prime Rate (also known as the U.S., national or Fed Prime Rate) will remain unchanged at the current 3.25%.

Here's a clip from today's FOMC press release:

"...Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in September suggests that economic activity has continued to pick up. Conditions in financial markets were roughly unchanged, on balance, over the intermeeting period. Activity in the housing sector has increased over recent months. Household spending appears to be expanding but remains constrained by ongoing job losses, sluggish income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Businesses are still cutting back on fixed investment and staffing, though at a slower pace; they continue to make progress in bringing inventory stocks into better alignment with sales. Although economic activity is likely to remain weak for a time, the Committee anticipates that policy actions to stabilize financial markets and institutions, fiscal and monetary stimulus, and market forces will support a strengthening of economic growth and a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability.

With substantial resource slack likely to continue to dampen cost pressures and with longer-term inflation expectations stable, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued for some time.

In these circumstances, the Federal Reserve will continue to employ a wide range of tools to promote economic recovery and to preserve price stability. The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period. To provide support to mortgage lending and housing markets and to improve overall conditions in private credit markets, the Federal Reserve will purchase a total of $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and about $175 billion of agency debt. The amount of agency debt purchases, while somewhat less than the previously announced maximum of $200 billion, is consistent with the recent path of purchases and reflects the limited availability of agency debt. In order to promote a smooth transition in markets, the Committee will gradually slow the pace of its purchases of both agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities and anticipates that these transactions will be executed by the end of the first quarter of 2010. The Committee will continue to evaluate the timing and overall amounts of its purchases of securities in light of the evolving economic outlook and conditions in financial markets. The Federal Reserve is monitoring the size and composition of its balance sheet and will make adjustments to its credit and liquidity programs as warranted.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Charles L. Evans; Donald L. Kohn; Jeffrey M. Lacker; Dennis P. Lockhart; Daniel K. Tarullo; Kevin M. Warsh; and Janet L. Yellen..."

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