Minutes recently released from the 2006 meetings of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) offer some disturbing insights into the failure of Fed officials to understand how deeply intertwined the housing sector and financial markets are. This New York Times piece goes into much detail regarding this and other less-than-flattering aspects of these meetings. While residential investment represents a tiny four percent (4%) of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it has far reaching backward- and forward-linkages into many other components of GDP, such as construction, construction materials, durable goods, home furnishings, brokerage and financial services. For this reason, it is often said that when it comes to the strong effect residential investment has on the economy, that housing is the “tail that wags the dog.”
Yesterday I delivered the keynote address at the Shamrock Capital Advisors Annual Investor Meeting. I was privileged with the opportunity to present to a room full of high-ranking institutional investors and company executives, including Chairman Stanley Gold (former Board member of The Walt Disney Company) and Managing Director Dan Beaney. I spoke for approximately 40 minutes and my primary theme was the replacement of the private consumer bubble with a public bubble, whereby government policy now controls the overall direction of the economy. Click here to see a PDF file of the presentation.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta reported as of Jan. 13 that it had completed $1.14 trillion, or 91%, of its planned $1.25 trillion MBS purchases. Per a separate update from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York another $12 billion was purchased last week, bringing the total to $1.15 trillion, or 92% of the total commitment. As planned, the program is set to reach its goal by the end of Q1.
So what’s the big deal? Well, the wind-down of this plan will show us just how effective the Obama Administration and Fed was at creating stability in the housing market. Unless we see continued commitment towards MBS purchases after this date (doubtful though not impossible) my prediction is that mortgage rates will rise nearly half a point and, together with expiration of the Homebuyer Tax Credit, will lead to further deterioration in the housing market.
Here are the links to the Fed data: