At its September meeting yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board noted one way and voted another. The Fed voted 7-3 to leave its Federal Funds interest rate untouched at its low level, suggesting the commercial real estate national markets will not have to worry about escalating cost of capital — at least for now.
In a press release following the vote, the Fed cited a strengthening labor market plus a picking up of economic activity in the second half of the year as a justification for the vote. Inflation fears were addressed by noting the level remains under the Board’s long-run goal of 2%.
The Federal Funds Rate’s target was allowed to stand between 1/4 and 1/2 of 1%, despite the “case for a [rate] increase [strengthening]”:
Against this backdrop, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/4 to 1/2 percent. The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting further improvement in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation.
In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.
Prime Rates Primed To Stay Put
The Federal Funds rate is deeply tied to the prime rates each commercial bank offers to its least risky borrowers, prime rates tracking more or less consistently at 3 percentage points above the Federal Funds rate. The next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting where the issue of interest rates will be again considered is scheduled for November 2.
The cost of money might not be going up after all. Signals from the Federal Reserve over the last quarter had been pointing to a raise in interest rates in September. But a new jobs report from the US Labor Department showed softer gains than were predicted. Now the signals point again to rates being left at their current low levels.
The week ending February 9th saw a drop in jobless claims of 27,000, continuing a general trend in new jobless claims that is approaching pre-2007 recession levels.
In each Economic Update, the Research staff analyzes recently released economic indicators and addresses what these indicators mean for REALTORS® and their clients. Today’s update discusses initial jobless claims.
Released today was the February 2012 edition of Commercial Real Estate Outlook from NAR Commercial. Among the tables and graphs, report author George Ratiu, Manager of NAR Commercial Research sees a 2 to 3 percent general economic recovery rate and reports two CRE findings:
Vacancies were down 1Q 2012
Beyond the decline in vacancies, job growth is a key driver of the demand for commercial space. Economists are forecasting a an increase in payroll jobs in the neighborhood of 2 to 2.5 million for the next two years based on GDP growth in the 2 to 3 percent range. A continued recovery for the commercial sector is projected in NAR’s February edition of the Commercial Real Estate Outlook.