EDITOR NOTE: Monetary policy is still in ultra-loose mode. Interest rates are pressed down to near zero. The Fed’s still buying $120 billion worth of assets each month, around $80B in Treasuries and $40B in mortgage-backed securities--all to depress long-term interest rates. With housing prices inflating faster than expected, the Fed now faces a conundrum: if it tapers its purchases, it might trigger a dramatic bust in the housing market. As we’ve said before, the Fed is the engineer “par excellence” of the market’s boom and bust cycle. For assets to fall from artificially sustained heights to fundamental reality is a painful reckoning. Yet, sustaining an economic illusion, however prosperous that may seem, arguably presents more hazard as investors and, in this case, homeowners experience a shift from obfuscation to objective valuations.
“It’s very important for us to get back to our 2 percent inflation target but the goal is for that to be sustainable. And for that to be sustainable, we can’t have a boom and bust cycle in something like real estate.”
— Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren
Eric Rosengren, the president of the Boston Fed, expressed concern over the housing market in an interview with the Financial Times, and it comes as data shows house prices soaring. The median price for an existing home sale skyrocketed 24% in May. Other house price measures also are surging.
Rosengren noted the financial stability concerns that come from boom-and-bust real estate cycles. In 2008, there was a global financial crisis as the housing market collapsed.
Rosengren’s comments come amid intense debate at the central bank as to when it should start reduce the rate of its monthly bond purchases.
Rosengren’s view does not appear to be shared, as yet, by the core of Fed officials who set policy. MarketWatch’s Greg Robb asked Fed Chair Jerome Powell in April about the fact the central bank was buying mortgage-backed securities, which was helping to boost the housing market. Powell did not express alarm.
“It’s not meant to provide direct assistance to the housing market. That was never the intent. It was really just to keep that as—it’s a very close relation to the Treasury market and a very important market on its own. And so that’s why we bought as we did during the Global Financial Crisis; we bought MBS too,” said Powell.
He gave no indication the Fed would make a distinction between tapering Treasury and mortgage-backed securities.
Original post from MarketWatch