The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its 2-day meeting January 24-25, 2012.
The Fed Minutes is a summary of the conversations and debates that shape our nation’s monetary policy. It receives less attention than the Fed’s more well-known, post-meeting press release, but the Fed Minutes is every bit as important.
To rate shoppers , for example, the Fed Minutes can provide clues about whether mortgage rates will generally rise or fall in the coming months.
The most recent Fed Minutes reveals a central bank divided on the future of the U.S. economy. The minutes show some Fed members in favor of new, immediate market stimulus. It shows others in favor of terminating the stimulus that’s already in place.
The Fed’s debate centered on the topic of inflation, and the pressures that a prolonged, near-zero Fed Funds Rate can place on the economy. Ultimately, the Fed did nothing, neither adding new stimulus nor removing that which is already in place.
It did, however, communicate a plan to keep the benchmark Fed Funds Rate rate “exceptionally low” through late-2014, at least.
The Fed Minutes included the following notes, too :
- On employment : Unemployment rates will “decline only gradually” in 2012
- On housing : The market is “held down” by the “large overhang” of distressed homes
- On inflation : Consumer prices have remained “flat”
Furthermore, the Fed expressed optimism regarding European financial markets, noting that market sentiment “appeared to brighten a bit”. Nonetheless, “spillovers” remain possible and the threat continues to weigh on markets.
Mortgage rates are slightly worse since the Fed Minutes were released.
The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is March 13, 2012 — its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year.