A tightening labor market and a desire to normalize monetary policy led the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy committee to tighten financial conditions.
First, the Federal Open Market Committee announced the second rate hike of 2017, increasing the target rate to a range of 1%-1.25%. NAHB expects one additional increase in 2017.
Second, the committee announced plans to reduce its balance sheet, which grew after the Great Recession as part of an accommodative policy known as quantitative easing. The balance sheet, which includes $1.8 trillion in agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, would be reduced in a “gradual and predictable” manner, creating only a slight increase in mortgage rates. The reductions in mortgage-backed securities would start at $4 billion and rise to $20 billion per month over a 12-month period and not result in a complete run-off of holdings. This process would likely begin at the end of 2017.
The Fed’s actions are motivated by admittedly conflicting data. Measures of inflation remain below the Fed’s 2% objective, but tight labor market conditions risk accelerating prices. For example, the unemployment rate was 4.3% in May and job openings persist at elevated levels, especially within the construction industry. The Fed’s moves represent a belief that economic conditions continue to be solid and growth will continue.
–NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz