Prime Rate

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2014 Prime Rate Forecast: Prime Very Likely To Contiue At 3.25% All Year

prime rate forecastHere's a clip from today's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy release:

"...Beginning in January [2014], the Committee will add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $35 billion per month rather than $40 billion per month, and will add to its holdings of longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $40 billion per month rather than $45 billion per month..."
So the Fed has decided to lift its foot off the money-printing pedal next month, just a little bit, and will buy $75 billion of debt per month, instead of $85 billion.

Wall Street reacted positively to the Fed's decision to begin tapering its bond-buying program, with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the S and P 500 Index closing with new record highs today.

Scaling back on bond buying, after all, means that the Fed is confident that the economy will continue to improve.

Wall Street was also cheered by the Fed's solid language regarding short-term rates; another clip:

"...The Committee now anticipates, based on its assessment of these factors, that it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6-1/2 percent, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal..."
In other words, the Fed is going to keep short-term rates (which includes the US Prime Rate)  in the deep freeze until the economy is very firmly in escape-velocity mode, and is willing to risk some inflation down the road to get there.

The United States Prime Rate is essentially a function of the fed funds target rate:

US Prime Rate = (The Federal Funds Target Rate + 3)

And , at 3-1/4%, the Prime is currently as low as it can go.

Month after month after month of strong, non-farm payrolls, with 2% inflation on the side.  That's what the Fed is looking for.

Earlier today, the FOMC also released projections for the benchmark fed funds target rate.  Out of 17 participants, only 2 are forecasting a increase for the fed funds target rate at some point during 2014, with 15 predicting that the FOMC will leave it where it is right now (range of 0%-0.25%.)

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Dr. Janet L. Yellen
Dr. Janet L. Yellen
Dr. Janet L. Yellen is set to take over as Fed Boss early next year.

Her challenges are many, and the scrutiny will be intense.  Continuing to steer and eventually complete the economic recovery which Ben Bernanke started will be no picnic, with the headwind of a dysfunctional Congress and a virtually empty toolbox.

But if anyone has the brains and background to get the job done, it's Dr. Yellen.

Ben Bernanke is a clever economist too.

But, despite being an expert on the Great Depression, Dr. Bernanke hasn't been able to get the US economy back to full strength, and he's had four years to try. 

Moreover, Fed Boss Bernanke was late in his reaction to the banking crisis and subsequent housing crash, a tardiness that may have contributed to the protracted nature of the worse recession since the big one back in 1929.

Let's see if Dr. Yellen can figure out how to get banks to stop sitting on their massive piles of cash, and lend to deserving businesses and entrepreneurs.

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Mortgage Rate Forecast

If the economic recovery continues at a strong and sustained pace, investors will continue to rotate out of the safety of government debt, and move to riskier assets like stocks.

If that happens, US Treasury yields will rise, which will cause mortgage rates to rise (rates associated with  30-year, fixed-rate mortgages track very closely with the yield on the Ten-Year U.S. Treasury Note.)

If the recovery peters out, then investors will scramble back to government bonds, and mortgage rates will fall.

Anyone who thinks that they can offer a more accurate prediction of American mortgage rates, will probably try to sell you a popular and vintage bridge in Brooklyn next....

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From the rate watchers here @ www.FedPrimeRate.com: All the best for 2014.

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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 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will vote to leave the benchmark target range for the Federal Funds Rate at its current level at the January 29TH, March 19TH and April 30TH, 2014 FOMC monetary policy meetings.


Summary of the Latest Prime Rate Forecast:

  • Current odds that the Prime Rate will remain at the current 3.25% after the January 29TH, March 19TH and April 30TH, 2014 FOMC monetary policy meetings are 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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Eighth and Final FOMC Meeting of 2013 Adjourned: U.S. Prime Rate To Stay At 3.25%

FOMC votes to leave short-term rates unchanged; US Prime Rate to stay at 3.25%The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve has just adjourned its eighth and final monetary policy meeting of 2013 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 U.S. Prime Rate (a.k.a the national, WSJ or Fed Prime Rate) will remain at the current 3.25%.

Here's a clip from today's FOMC press release (note text in bold):

"... Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in October indicates that economic activity is expanding at a moderate pace. Labor market conditions have shown further improvement; the unemployment rate has declined but remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, while the recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months. Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint may be diminishing. Inflation has been running below the Committee's longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will pick up from its recent pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having become more nearly balanced. The Committee recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, and it is monitoring inflation developments carefully for evidence that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term.

Taking into account the extent of federal fiscal retrenchment since the inception of its current asset purchase program, the Committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions over that period as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy. In light of the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions, the Committee decided to modestly reduce the pace of its asset purchases. Beginning in January, the Committee will add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $35 billion per month rather than $40 billion per month, and will add to its holdings of longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $40 billion per month rather than $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee's sizable and still-increasing holdings of longer-term securities should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, which in turn should promote a stronger economic recovery and help to ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with the Committee's dual mandate.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months and will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. If incoming information broadly supports the Committee's expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation moving back toward its longer-run objective, the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings. However, asset purchases are not on a preset course, and the Committee's decisions about their pace will remain contingent on the Committee's outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as its assessment of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. The Committee also reaffirmed its expectation that the current exceptionally low target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to 1/4 percent will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. The Committee now anticipates, based on its assessment of these factors, that it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6-1/2 percent, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; James Bullard; Charles L. Evans; Esther L. George; Jerome H. Powell; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Eric S. Rosengren, who believes that, with the unemployment rate still elevated and the inflation rate well below the target, changes in the purchase program are premature until incoming data more clearly indicate that economic growth is likely to be sustained above its potential rate..."

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