The Fed's Big Move

The Federal Reserve takes a huge gulp and slashes its key interest rate 3/4s of a percent. The stock market cheers. But on Realtor oriented Web sites such as the mood is less ebullient. After all the brokers have seen the Fed slash rates for months and the housing market has continued to tank. The truth is the Fed cuts don’t translate directly into lower mortgage rates. Mortgage rates have risen since January, despites the Fed’s slashing. Gibran Nicholas, chairman of the CMPS Institute, which certifies mortgage bankers, says it’s important for consumers to know how the mortgage markets work. The Fed cuts involve the Federal Funds Rate—which is what banks charge each other for loans. Adjustable rate mortgages are most often tied to Libor—the London Interbank Offered Rate. Home equity loans are based on the Prime Rate in the U.S., what banks charge their best customers. Traditional mortgage rates are most closely tied to those of mortgage securities, that is what investors on Wall Street are willing to accept in return for the money they invest. Mortgage securities pricing closely follows 10 year Treasury rates, i.e. what global bond investors are willing to accept for lending to the U.S. government. Other factors come into play. The value of the dollar. Inflation. The economy. The attractiveness of other investments. It’s all part of the global money stew. The Fed’s moves certainly won’t hurt home values, but nor are they are an instant end to the market’s slide.

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