The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee released its customary after-meeting statement on Wednesday. In the context of meeting its dual mandate of stabilizing pricing and achieving maximum employment.
The FOMC statement indicated that although the economy has improved in areas including household spending and labor market conditions, the national unemployment rate remains high and the housing market recovery has slowed.
Fed Says Fiscal Policy Restraining Economic Growth
The FOMC statement said that current fiscal policy and "retrenchment" is restraining economic growth as evidenced by failure to achieve benchmarks set by FOMC as indicators of a healthy economy. Benchmarks include a national unemployment rate no higher than 6.50 percent and achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.
September's unemployment rate was 7.20 percent and inflation has run consistently below the FOMC objective. Not to be confused with the FOMC statement's references to monetary policy, the term fiscal policy refers to the government's budgetary policy.
Committee Sees "Moderate" Economic Growth, Seeks Improvement
While the Fed cited "moderate economic growth," the FOMC statement clearly indicated that the committee is not ready to alter its current policy of quantitative easing and estimates that it will maintain the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time after the QE bond-buying program is phased out.
The Federal Reserve currently purchases $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in Treasury securities as part of its QE program. The Fed will also continue its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments it receives on holdings of agency debt and MBS, as well as selling maturing Treasury securities at auction.
These activities are part of FOMC's strategy for supporting low mortgage rates and mortgage markets while making "broader financial conditions more accommodative." The Fed expects these measures to assist with a stronger economic recovery and stabilizing inflation at the Fed's target rate.
Fed To Continue Monitoring Economic, Financial Developments
FOMC reasserted its position that any decision to alter current QE policy is not solely subject to economic benchmarks, but will be based on the Committee's close review of labor market conditions, inflation pressures, and financial developments.
FOMC commented in its statement that it will continue to review economic and financial conditions in the "coming months" and will decide when to taper its monthly asset purchase according to what is learned.
This suggests that changes to the present QE policy are not anticipated for several months, and that the effects of QE combined with dampened speculation may help with keeping mortgage rates lower.