The Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Wednesday. For the fifth consecutive meeting, the Fed Funds Rate 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 moderately” this year. Beyond the next few quarters, the Fed expects growth to “pick up very gradually”. In addition, the Fed re-acknowledged that “strains in global financial markets” continue to pose “significant downside risks” to the U.S. economic outlook. This statement is a repeat from the FOMC’s April press release and is in reference to the sovereign debt concerns of Greece, Spain and Italy, plus the potential for a broader European economic slowdown.
The Fed’s statement also included the following economic observations :
- The housing sector remains “depressed”
- Labor conditions have “slowed in recent months”
- Household spending is “rising at a somewhat slower pace” than earlier this year
With respect to inflation, the Fed said that pressures have declined, led by falling oil and gasoline prices. Longer-term inflation expectations remain stable.
The biggest news of the FOMC meeting is that the Federal Reserve will be extending its “Operation Twist” program. The program sells shorter-term securities on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and uses the proceeds to purchase longer-term securities. This move puts “downward pressure on longer-term interest rates” and makes “broader financial conditions more accommodative.” The Fed also pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels at least through late-2014. There has been no real change in rates, although that may change later in the day, or week. Mortgage rates in the Denver area remain at all-time lows.
The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for July 31-August 1, 2012.