Curve

Federal Reserve leaves interest rates alone but indicates future increases

Gina Pogol
The Mortgage Reports editor

Federal Reserve: No increase, this time

The Federal Reserve Bank’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) concluded its meeting today and, as widely expected, did not increase interest rates.

Verify your new rate (Dec 12th, 2018)

What the Fed said

Last month’s decision to bump rates higher at least four times in 2018 has not changed. Expect more increases in the last quarter of 2018.

Related: August 2018 mortgage rate forecast

The Fed’s crucial short-term rate remains at 1.75 percent to 2 percent — where rates ended up after June’s meeting and the decision to increase the target rate by .25 percent.

The Fed said then to expect a total of four rate hikes this year, up from three in 2017. Many experts predict that the next hike will occur at the September meeting next month.

Today’s policy statement

Most of what the Fed communicated is in these paragraphs.

“Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low. Household spending and business fixed investment have grown strongly. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy remain near 2 percent. Indicators of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.”

Related: Which lenders offer the lowest mortgage rates?

“Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term. Risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.”

Not cast in concrete

However, the committee left itself some wiggle room in case the economy changes for the worse. If employment stalls, the housing market teeters, or industry tanks (there is a trade war on, which can change things quickly),  the expected rate increases may not materialize.

“In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its maximum employment objective and its symmetric 2 percent inflation objective. ”

Verify your new rate (Dec 12th, 2018)