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Fed Is Likely To Hold Steady On Rates

发布者: chrislau2001 | 发布时间: 2008-9-9 16:53| 查看数: 2103| 评论数: 1|

The U.S. government's takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't change the Federal Reserve's current course for interest-rate policy. Amid a nagging credit storm and improved inflation backdrop, the Fed looks increasingly likely to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2% into next year.

A few months ago, some investors thought short-term interest rates would be moving higher by now amid mounting worries about rising oil prices and inflation. But those concerns have receded as troubles in the economy show few signs of abating, leaving Fed officials inclined at their meeting on Sept. 16 to keep rates at the same level they have been at since April.

Futures markets don't see significant odds of a rate increase until spring.

Housing remains at the center of the Fed's concerns about growth and financial stability. The Fed has pushed the federal-funds rate down 3.25 percentage points in the past year in an effort to cushion the blows of the credit crunch. But the financial system faces continued strains and a bottom in home prices is still not in sight. Despite the Fed's efforts to push interest rates lower, mortgage rates have barely budged -- staying above 6% -- as risk-averse banks tighten lending standards.

The government's rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, could soften the blow. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke played a central role advising the Treasury Department and the firms' regulator on the plan and has blessed the move.

The government's takeover of the mortgage firms, which own or guarantee half of the nation's mortgages, should make it cheaper for Fannie and Freddie to borrow. That could help nudge mortgage rates down as much as half a percentage point, by some estimates, which could bring more buyers into the housing market and help prices find a floor.

But immense uncertainties about housing linger, one factor making officials cautious about pushing interest rates higher any time soon. Home-price declines have shown glimmers of slowing in some parts of the nation, but they might have been distorted by seasonal factors. Home sales also show tentative hints of stabilizing, but could deteriorate further if credit conditions tighten.

High mortgage rates mean the Fed's rate cuts have so far failed to translate into lower borrowing costs for consumers and businesses in all the areas in which they usually do. Many Fed officials see the lingering disconnect between their own policy rate and other borrowing rates as a cue that financial conditions are tight and that they have leeway to leave their target rate low.

Much of the Fed's easing of interest rates to date 'has merely offset the tightening in credit conditions created by the financial turmoil that began last summer,' Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a recent speech.

Also weighing against a shift in policy is the inflation backdrop, which has eased considerably since Fed officials last met Aug. 5. Falling commodity prices haven take steam out of food and energy inflation, while a rising jobless rate has produced slack in the labor market. A stronger dollar has also taken pressure off import prices. And a slower global economy means less global demand.

'It seems clear that inflation risks have diminished somewhat in recent months as commodity prices have come down from their high,' Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in a speech last week. She added that she expects inflation to drop to a 'much more moderate rate' next year.

Officials expect economic activity to weaken in the second half of this year and only recover slowly next year. Export growth is expected to slow due to a weaker global economy. The latest jump in the U.S. unemployment rate, to 6.1% in August from 5.7% in July, underscored how conditions have deteriorated more than the Fed expected. In June, policy makers' projections for the fourth-quarter unemployment rate ranged from 5.5% to 5.8%. They will make their next forecasts in October.

Still, most officials expect the Fed's next move will be a rate increase, and not a cut. Though commodity prices have fallen, core inflation, which excludes food and energy, could continue to drift higher. Moreover, it's not clear that more rate cuts would help the economy, given that a year of cuts hasn't significantly reduced rates on mortgages and other loans.

Sudeep Reddy / Jon Hilsenrath


最新评论

chrislau2001 发表于 2008-9-9 16:54:45

美联储有望维持利率不变

美国政府接管房利美(Fannie Mae)和房地美(Freddie Mac)的计划不会改变美国联邦储备委员会(Federal Reserve)利率政策的现有走势。面对恼人的信贷风暴和通胀缓解的局面,Fed似乎越来越可能将今年剩余时间直至明年的基准利率保持在2%不变。

几个月前,一些投资者认为鉴于石油价格高企和通胀所引发的担忧日益强烈,短期利率将会走高。但随着经济困境显示出缓解迹象,这些忧虑也随之消退,从而将使Fed官员有可能在9月16日的会议上将利率继续维持于4月份以来的水平。

期货市场也认为,到明年春天前Fed加息的可能性不会很大。

住房市场依然是Fed对经济增长和金融稳定性担心的主要领域。为了缓冲信贷危机的破坏力,Fed去年将联邦基金利率下调了3.25个百分点。然而金融体系依然面临压力,房价何时见底也还是未知数。尽管Fed下调了利率,但由于银行担心风险而收紧了放贷标准,因此抵押贷款利率几乎没有变化,仍高于6%。

政府出手救助抵押融资巨头房利美和房地美将会减轻信贷危机的破坏作用。Fed主席贝南克(Ben Bernanke)在救助计划的问题上向财政部和“两房”监管机构提供了意见,不仅在计划酝酿过程中扮演了关键角色,并对财政部的决定表示赞扬。

有了政府的接管,房利美和房地美的借款成本将降低,据估计,这将把抵押贷款利率推低多达0.5个百分点,进而吸引更多买家进入房市,帮助房价找到支撑。在全美的抵押贷款中,由“两房”发放或是担保的占到了二分之一。

不过,围绕住房市场仍然存在极大的不确定性,这也促使官员们对很快加息表示谨慎。美国有些地方的房价跌速已经出现了减缓迹象,不过季节性因素可能造成某些数据失真。房屋销售也显示出暂时企稳的迹象,但如果信贷条件紧缩,它将进一步恶化。

居高不下的抵押贷款利率表明,Fed的减息到目前还未能像往常那样产生传导效应,降低消费者和企业的借贷成本。许多Fed官员将这种挥之不去的“脱节”现象视为一种信号,说明金融环境趋紧,将目标利率维持于低位仍有回旋余地。

波士顿联邦储备银行行长埃里克•罗森格伦(Eric Rosengren)在近日的讲话中表示,Fed迄今为止的多数降息只是缓解了始于去年夏天的金融动荡所引发的信贷紧张问题。

促使官员们维持现有政策的另一个因素是通货膨胀的最新形势:在Fed于8月5日召开上一次利率会议之后,通货膨胀已大为改观。大宗商品价格的下跌使食品和能源失去了上涨动能,而失业率的上升也造就了一个不景气的就业市场。此外,美元走强缓解了进口价格的压力,全球经济减速则意味着全球需求的下降。

旧金山联邦储备银行行长珍尼•耶伦(Janet Yellen)上周表示,随着大宗商品价格脱离高点,最近几个月的通胀风险似乎很明显有了一定程度的缓解。她还预计通胀率明年将降至更为适中的水平。

官员们预计今年下半年的经济活动将继续表现疲软,明年才会慢慢复苏。而鉴于全球经济减速,出口也将出现增长放缓。美国8月份失业率由7月份的5.7%升至6.1%,突出表明实际情况的恶化程度超过了Fed预期。6月份时,决策者对美国第四季度失业率的预测为5.5%至5.8%,他们将在10月份再次作出预测。

尽管如此,大多数官员预计Fed的下一步举动将是加息而非减息。虽然大宗商品价格有所下滑,但剔除食品和能源价格的核心通胀率仍可能继续走高。此外,考虑到过去一年的频频减息并未大幅降低抵押贷款及其他贷款的利率,那么如今再度减息能否有助改善经济也未可知。

Sudeep Reddy / Jon Hilsenrath
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