The Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Thursday. For the eighth consecutive meeting, the vote was nearly unanimous.
Just one FOMC member, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker, dissented in the 9-1 vote.
The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008.
In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has been expanding “at a moderate pace” in recent months, led by growth in household spending. However, “strains in global financial markets” remain a significant threat to growth in the near-term, a remark made in reference to the Eurozone and its sovereign debt and recession issues.
The Fed’s statement also included the following economic observations :
- Growth in employment has been slow with unemployment elevated
- Inflation has been subdued, despite rising gas and oil prices
- Business spending on equipment and structures has slowed
In addition, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that there have been signs of improvement, “albeit from a depressed level”.
The biggest news to come out of the FOMC meeting, though, was the launch of the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing (QE3).
QE3 is a program by which the Federal Reserve will purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly, with no defined “end date” for the program. So long as the Fed believes that the market needs support, it will keep QE3 in place.
In the near-term, QE3 is good for Minneapolis/St Paul rate shoppers and home buyers. With the Fed in line to buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds each month, demand for bonds is expected to remain strong which, all things equal, leads mortgage rates lower.
We’re seeing this already today. Mortgage pricing is improving post-FOMC, with rates nearing their lowest levels of the week.
The Fed also used its meeting to announce that it intends to hold the Fed Funds Rate near its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent until mid-2015, at least. At its last meeting, the Fed has marked an end-date of “late-2014”.
The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event, October 23-24, 2012.