Those of us who keep abreast of where St. Cloud’s home loan interest rates are likely to head haven’t had much to keep track of lately. By the end of last week, that was beginning to change.
Ever since the Federal Reserve’s single boost in their Fed Funds rate by a quarter of a percent last December, the interest rate scene had been quiet. At that time, a gradual increase in the Funds rate had been predicted by nearly every observer. It’s the benchmark rate by which banks determine their prime interest rates, which are generally about 3% higher; St. Cloud’s home loan interest rates are closely related to those.
But the widely hailed gradual rise in rates failed to appear in January; then again in February—the result of the Fed’s Governors getting cold feet. The economy, battered by some nasty weather and further rained upon by disappointing employment numbers, was judged to be simply too uncertain to have more cold water poured upon it (interest rate hikes do that). The consensus view gradually turned to an expectation that home loan interest rates were stuck in neutral.
This month began with most observers sticking to their guns. The 24/7 Wall Street web site ended April with the headline “Little Chance (or None) Seen for Fed Rate Hike.” They elaborated that “Some economists feel that the rate hike risks have all but dried up for 2016…it does imply that rates will rise far slower than what had been expected...”
St. Cloud businesses (St. Cloud real estate among them) generally stand to benefit by the continuation of the stimulative effect of low interest rates, so having rates frozen at historically low levels is treated as good news. Sooner or later there will have to be a return to normal interest rate levels, but in the meantime, few voices argue very strenuously against the status quo.
That quiet was broken last Wednesday with the release of minutes from the Fed’s last meeting—the gist of which seemed to be that a June hike in rates was now being seriously considered. Most press reports made it sound as if a rate hike was imminent; but closer scrutiny made that considerably less than a sure thing. What had really been enunciated was subtle.
CNBC’s Kate Rooney had the clearest take in an article about Wall Street trying to make sense of the Fed’s announcements. Since Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s statements in March had led all to believe no rate hike was anticipated, the new strong statement may have been intended to undo too much reliance on that. What was really being said was that a hike would be likely if current positive trends continued, rather than that newly strengthening trends were required. Most importantly, NO prediction was being made: everything would depend on the data (and events like the British vote to leave the European Union).
The bottom line for where home loan interest rates were likely to head? The best call is that unfolding events will determine that—and even the Fed itself awaits what’s to come. The one absolute in all of this was that right now, St. Cloud’s home loan interest rates remain extremely attractive. It’s nice to have at least one certainty—which continues to be that it’s a very good time to call me!