- NEW YORK (AP) - The Federal Reserve announced a $1.2 trillion plan three months ago designed to push down mortgage rates and breathe life into the housing market.
But this and other big government spending programs are turning out to have the opposite effect. Rates for mortgages and U.S. Treasury debt are now marching higher as nervous bond investors fret about a resurgence of inflation.
That's the Catch-22 threatening to make an awful housing market potentially worse and keep the economy stuck in a funk. Kick-starting the economy requires higher spending, but rising rates mean fewer Americans will be able to refinance their home loans.
That of course is the crux of the problem. Kick-starting the economy requires manufacturing things that have value, that will generate profits. In the absence of that, a high savings rate is the only way to generate capital for real investment and innovation. Fortunately Americans no longer buy into the supposed "patriotic duty" to spend themselves into bankruptcy for the good of the country.
- And some potential buyers will be shut out of the market by higher monthly payments they won't be able to afford.
To understand how this is all connected, you have to think like a bond trader. Inflation is their enemy because it means the purchasing power of the dollars they receive when bonds eventually are paid off will be diminished. The only question is by how much.
Yields on 10-year Treasury notes, a benchmark for home mortgages and other consumers loans, jumped from 2.5 percent in March around the time of the Fed announcement to as high as 3.7 percent in recent days as signs that efforts to stabilize the financial system and economy were starting to pay off. And 30-year mortgage rates jumped more than a quarter-point this week to 5.29 percent, the highest level since December, Freddie Mac reported.
"If the meltdown continues in the bond market, then mortgage yields will soon be at levels that choke off refinancing activity," said economist Ed Yardeni, who runs his own investment firm. "Even worse, they could abort any necessary recovery in home sales and prices.
- The White House says America's employment picture is worse than the Obama administration had anticipated just a few months ago. The somber admission follows the latest jobless report showing the highest unemployment rate the United States has seen in more than 25 years.
U.S. unemployment jumped a half percent in May, to 9.4 percent prompting this comment by Austan Goolsbee, a member of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors:
"The economy clearly has gotten substantially worse from the initial predictions that were being made, not just by the White House, but by all of the private sector," said Austan Goolsbee.
Economists point out that the current jobless rate is already higher than the hypothetical rate that was used to calculate the health of banks and other financial institutions in so-called "stress tests" earlier this year. And, the upward unemployment trajectory is expected to continue in coming months, even if the overall economy begins to recover.
Austan Goolsbee spoke on Fox News Sunday:
"It is going to be a rough patch [difficult period], not just in the immediate term, but for a little bit of time [in the future]," he said. "You have to turn the economy around, and jobs and job growth tends to come after you turn the economy around."