Fed minutes: “Housing sector generally remained slow”

Nation expands at moderate pace

While the nation is expanding at a moderate pace, housing continues its slow trudge forward, according to the minutes for the Federal Open Market Committee’s Dec. 16-17 meeting.

“The pace of activity in the housing sector generally remained slow” over the intermeeting period, the minutes said.

Both starts and permits of new single-family homes increased only a little, on balance, in October and November, as starts of multifamily units declined, on net, over the past two months.

As far as mortgage lending goes, conditions were little changed over the period, with credit conditions for mortgages remaining tight for borrowers with less-than-pristine credit.

Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages declined, consistent with the moves in longer-term Treasury yields, and refinancing activity was subdued.

The committee chose to reaffirm its view that the current 0% to .25% target range for the federal funds rate remains appropriate after announcing the official end to quantitative easing at its last meeting in October.

Overall, market participants became a bit more optimistic about U.S. economic prospects while also responding to economic and policy developments abroad.

Although, the minutes added that “the sharp decline in oil prices weighed on inflation compensation and left a mixed imprint on other asset markets."

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