Predicting The Federal Reserve’s Next Move: April ’09 Edition

The Fed Fund Futures predict that the Fed will leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged at its April 2009 meeting

The Federal Reserve meets next week for a policy-setting meeting.

It’s one of 8 scheduled Fed meetings this year in which the Federal Open Market Committee votes on whether to raise, lower, or leave unchanged the Fed Funds Rate.

Based on data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Wall Street’s expectations of the Fed Funds Rate post-meeting are as follows:

  • 97 percent probability that the Fed Funds Rate holds at 0.000 to 0.250%
  • 3 percent probability that the Fed Funds Rate is raised to 0.750%.

There is no expectation for a 0.500% Fed Funds Rate.

The Fed Funds Rate influences the economy by changing borrowing costs for banks, businesses, and consumers.  When the Fed Funds Rate is lowered, “cheaper money” is meant to speed the economy forward.  When the Fed Funds Rate is raised, by contrast, costly borrowing tends to slow the economy down.

Changes to the Fed Funds Rate do not directly correlate to changes in mortgage rates.

Because Wall Street is nearly unanimous in its Fed Funds Rate prediction, though, expect the market’s FOMC focus to be on what the Fed says rather than what it does.

If Ben Bernanke & Co. express concerns about long-term inflation and the need to contain growth, mortgage rates will rise in response.  On the other hand, if the Fed says that growth is expected to be within a tolerable range, mortgage rates should idle.

In other words, there’s little benefit in waiting for the Fed’s meeting to make your “Float or Lock” mortgage rate decision.  In a worst-case scenario, mortgage rates rise.  In a best-case scenario, they likely stay the same.

The Fed’s two-day meeting adjourns Tuesday, April 29 at 2:15 PM ET.