Posts Tagged ‘Federal Reserve’

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 16, 2016


2016
02.16

Last week’s economic events included weekly releases on new jobless claims, mortgage rates and testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen concerning the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Here are the details:

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Drop

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last Thursday, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven basis points lower at 3.65 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower at 2.95 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30 and 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Lower mortgage rates may encourage first-time and moderate income home buyers to enter the market, although slim supplies of available homes and rising home prices have caused ongoing concerns about affordability in many markets.

Weekly jobless claims were also lower. 269,000 new claims were filed as compared to estimated claims of 280,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading in two months and suggests healthy labor markets as more workers find jobs. Readings lower than 300,000 new jobless claims indicate healthy jobs markets. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims was lower by 3500 claims at 281,250 new claims filed. Analysts consider the four-week reading as a more accurate indicator of labor markets as it smooths out anomalies in weekly claims.

Yellen Testimony: Fed Won’t Change Course on Rates

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that she doesn’t expect interest rate cuts in view of slowing economic indicators. In testimony before the House Financial Services panel, Chair Yellen indicated that although there are signs of slower economic conditions, there was still room for economic growth. She cited a strong labor market and strong consumer and business spending as indicators of economic expansion. Analysts interpreted Chair Yellen’s testimony to indicate that the Fed would not likely raise its target federal funds rate in March.

Chair Yellen said that monetary policy is not on a “preset course”. Federal Reserve press releases consistently state that policy makers review current and developing domestic and global economic trends as part of any decision to raise rates. In view of this, Chair Yellen’s testimony did not cover what could happen if future economic developments influence Fed policy. Recent concerns over volatile financial markets caused by the weakening in China’s economy were cited as examples of “downside risks” that could impact the Fed’s monetary policy.

Readings for Consumer Sentiment suggest that consumers are also watching economic developments. February’s reading decreased to 90.7 as compared to January’s reading of 92.0.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits. FOMC minutes and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

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S&P Case-Shiller: September Home Prices Gain Across U.S.


2015
11.27

SP CaseShiller September Home Prices Gain Across US

Home prices increased across the S&P Case Shiller 20-City Home Price Index in September. According to the 20-City Home Price Index, Year-over year home price gains increased to 5.50 percent from August’s reading of 5.10 percent. 17 cities posted higher year-over0year price gains in September as compared to August.

Western cities led price gains with San Francisco, California reclaiming its lead with a year-over-year gain of 11.20 percent in September. Denver, Colorado followed with a year-over-year gain of 10.90 percent and Portland, Oregon achieved the third highest year-over-year home price gain of 10.10 percent. Phoenix, Arizona had the longest consecutive run of year-over-year price gains for ten months and had a year-over-year gain of 5.30 percent.

Month-to Month Home Prices Indicate Stronger Housing Markets

After seasonal adjustment, the 20-City Home Price Index reported a month-to-month gain of 0.60 percent in September with home price gains in 19 cities. David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Indices Committee, said that home prices are growing at more than twice the rate of inflation. While this is good news for home sellers, it also means that home buyers are finding that home prices are rising faster than other economic sectors. Rising home prices present a challenge for first-time and moderate income home buyers. First-time buyers drive housing markets as their home purchases bring new demand into the market and allow current homeowners to move up to larger homes.

Mr. Blitzer also said that in spite of widespread media coverage of the Federal Reserve’s likely plan to raise its target federal funds rate from 0.00 to 0.250 percent to 0.25 to 0.50 percent in December, the increase in the federal funds rate should not cause an major rise in mortgage rates, which are expected to stay near 4.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Based on readings for national median income, median home price and average mortgage rates, Mr. Blitzer said that affordability for homeowners within the median income range who were buying median priced homes had “slipped recently.”

Year-end reports on housing markets and general economic conditions will likely cause adjustments to forecasts for home prices and affordability. Strong labor markets may improve affordability for home buyers and the actual impact of any Fed move to raise rates will influence housing markets and home prices in 2016.

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Case-Shiller Housing Market Index: Home Prices Rise in July


2015
09.30

Case Shiller Housing Market Index Home Prices Rise in JulyU.S. home prices rose by 0.10 percent in July according to the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index. San Francisco, California edged past Denver Colorado with a year-over-year price increase of 10.40 percent as compared to Denver’s reading of 10.30 percent. All year-over-readings for the 20-City Home Price Index posted gains, but Washington, D.C. showed the lowest year-over0-year growth rate at 1.70 percent. Chicago, Illinois and New York City followed closely with year-over-year readings of 1.80 percent and 1.90 percent respectively.

Seasonally-Adjusted Home Prices Fall

Although seasonally-adjusted home prices typically rise during the peak home selling season during spring and summer, July’s reports indicated that seasonally-adjusted home prices fell by 0.20 percent in July. Factors including tough mortgage approval requirements and low inventories of available homes likely contributed to slower growth in home prices as demand for homes fell.

Would-be home buyers may also have sat on the sidelines awaiting the Federal Reserve’s decision regarding raising rates. The Fed has not raised rates yet, but may do so in October. Mortgage rates are expected to rise when the Fed raises its target federal funds rate, which is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25percent.

Western Cities Lead Home Price Growth

Case-Shiller reported that as of July, the West continues to see the highest rates of home price growth. Over the past 12 months, only San Francisco and Denver have shown double-digit growth in home prices. Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, California have shown the strongest increases in home prices since 2000.

Home prices for cities included in the 20-City Index have risen 35.70 percent since home prices hit their post -recession low in 2012, but remain 13 percent below the housing bubble’s peak prices. All cities in the 20-City Index posted price gains year-over-year as of July and 14 cities posted higher price gains than for the comparable period ending in July 2014.

Trend: Modest Home Price Growth Continues

The Federal Housing Finance Agency recently posted a year-over-year gain of 5.80 percent for home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This news further supports the trend of moderate gains in U.S home prices; moderate growth in home prices could encourage more moderate-income and first-time home buyers to buy homes, particularly in advance of the anticipated increasein mortgage rates when the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

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NAHB: Builder Confidence Hits Highest Rate in 9 Years; Fed Doesn’t Raise Rates


2015
09.18

Whats AheNAHB Builder Confidence Hits Highest Rate in 9 Years Fed Doesnt Raise Ratesad For Mortgage Rates This Week September 8 2015The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) / Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reported that home builder confidence rose by one point to a reading of 62 for September. This was the highest reading since November 2005, when the NAHB reported a reading of 68 for home builder confidence. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than those who are not.

NAHB notes that builder confidence has been growing at a moderate pace since July 2014; this is in line with economic conditions in general. Relatively low mortgage rates and stronger labor markets are helping would-be buyers with their decisions to buy homes now.

FOMC Statement and Fed Chair Press Conference: No Rate Hikes Yet

The minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve revealed that Fed policymakers have decided to wait on raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent. While the FOMC statement indicated that policy makers acknowledge moderate progress in economic growth, a majority did not feel that the economy is ready to withstand a rate hike. When the Fed does raise rates, consumers can expect to see higher mortgage rates as well as increases in lending rates for credit cards and loans.

FOMC members said that housing markets were growing at a steady but moderate pace, but that inflation was lagging below the Fed’s benchmark 2.00 percent level due to transitory effects of lower energy and import prices. The Fed expects that inflation will reach its 2.00 percent goal over the medium term and will not likely raise rates until FOMC members are confident that inflation will rise as expected.

FOMC members continued to assert that any decision to raise rates will be based on close review of domestic and global financial and economic trends and will not be based on meeting the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

Committee members also said that economic conditions could continue to warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below normal levels for the longer term.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference after the FOMC statement concluded. She addressed questions about the Fed’s decision not to raise rates and said that concerns over global developments contributed to Fed policy makers’ decision not to raise rates. Ms. Yellen explained that a stronger U.S. dollar has caused deflationary pressures and increased competition for U.S. exports. The Fed isn’t overly concerned about global conditions at present, but changing circumstances could change the Fed’s likely intention to raise rates before year end.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 8, 2015


2015
09.08

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week September 8 2015Last week’s economic news included reports on construction spending, private and public sector employment data and a report from the Fed indicating that any move to raise interest rates may be delayed. The details:

Construction Spending Meets Expectations, Beige Book Indicates Wage Pressures

Analysts said that construction is gaining strength and could soon be the strongest sector of the economy. Construction spending for July met growth expectations of 0.70 percent as compared to June’s reading of 0.10 percent. The Commerce Department reported that this reading translated to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.98 trillion, which was the highest rate of spending in the construction sector since May 2008.

Residential construction spending was up 10.80 percent year-over-year in July, with both single-family and multifamily construction posting double digit gains.

The Federal Reserve issued its Beige Book report last Wednesday, which indicated that wage pressures in many of the 13 Fed districts could cause rising inflation, which the Fed has cited as a component in any decision to raise the federal funds rate. The Fed has set a benchmark of 2.0 percent inflation as an indication for raising rates, but doesn’t expect to see this reading in the short term.

Higher wages increase consumers’ discretionary spending, which would contribute to more hiring and increasing demand for goods and services.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Higher

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.89 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage wash higher by three basis points and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose by three basis points to 2.93 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.60 for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 282,000 new claims against last week’s reading of 270,000 new claims and expectations of 275,000 new jobless claims. While this was the highest reading for new jobless claims in since late June, the reading for new weekly jobless claims has remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the last six months.

The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims rose by 3250 new claims to an average of 275,500 new claims. Analysts said that layoffs are declining and that workers who lose their jobs are finding new employment quickly.

Continuing jobless claims fell by 9000 to a reading of 2.26 million for the week that ended August 22.

ADP Employment Rises, Non-Farm Payrolls, National Unemployment Rate Fall

Private sector payrolls increased by 190,000 jobs in August as compared to July’s reading of 170,000 jobs according to ADP. This supports the trend of stronger hiring seen by economists in recent weeks. The government reported that Non-farm payrolls, which include public and private sector jobs, fell to 173,000 jobs against July’s reading of 245,000 jobs.

The Commerce Department reported that the national unemployment rate dipped to 5.10 percent in August against expected reading of 5.20 percent and July’s reading of 5.30 percent. The declining unemployment rate further supports economic growth and stronger labor markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include job openings, the usual weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates and a report on consumer sentiment.

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FOMC Minutes: Rate Hike May be Near


2015
08.20

FOMC Minutes Rate Hike May be NearThe minutes for the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) suggest that while committee members won’t specify a date, a rate hike could come sooner than later. Committee members continue to cite concerns over labor markets and other economic factors, but the minutes of the FOMC meeting held July 28 and 29 indicate that a majority of members see a rate change as likely in the near term.

Economic Conditions “Approaching” Readiness for Rate Hike

According to the minutes released Wednesday, the time for raising rates is not hear yet, but a majority of FOMC members feel that the time is approaching when economic conditions will warrant an increase of the target federal funds rate which is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent. When the Fed increases this rate, consumer loan rates including mortgage rates are expected to increase as well.

Achieving maximum employment is one of the Fed’s mandates; labor markets continue to improve as the national unemployment achieved its lowest reading for 2015 as of June, but labor force participation and the unemployment to population ratio have also declined. On a positive note, the number of part-time workers was lower and under-utilization of workers was lower than since the beginning of the year.

Committee members continued to have varied opinions about whether employment rates are low enough to indicate that the Fed’s mandate of “maximum” employment had been achieved.

Inflation remains below the 2.00 percent medium-term goal set by the Fed. FOMC members have consistently indicated that they don’t expect to see inflation achieve the target rate in the near term.

Housing Markets Show Improvement

The minutes noted that while construction of new homes declined in June, new starts increased over the second quarter. Sales of new homes were lower in June, but sales of existing homes increased. Building permits issued suggest the rate of construction is stable but little changed. Pending home sales were stable and suggest little change in completed home sales in the near term.

A jump in multifamily building permits were attributed to an expiring tax credit date, but housing analysts have repeatedly cited the millennial generation as preferring to live and work in large metro areas where housing can be out of reach for all but the top tier of earners. In other economic sectors, the minutes said that auto loans and student loans continued to grow.

The FOMC minutes indicate the same position of FOMC members in recent months; while the national unemployment rate is low, the Fed does not expect to see inflation at the agency’s target rate of 2.00 percent immediately. Committee members note that they will continue to monitor domestic and global financial conditions as part of the fact-finding process necessary for deciding when to the federal target funds rate,

Speculation over when the Fed will move to raise rates has persisted for several months and will no doubt continue until the Fed does decide to raise rates.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 10, 2015


2015
08.10

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week August 10 2015This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, a survey of senior loan officers, and reports on labor markets including ADP private sector jobs, the federal government’s reports on non-farm payrolls, core inflation and the national unemployment rate.

Construction Spending Slows, Loan Officers Survey Suggests Growing Confidence

Construction spending fell in June after the May reading was revised upward to 1.89 percent from the original reading of 0.90 percent. Spending for residential construction rose by 0.40 percent, while non-residential construction spending remained flat. The seasonally-adjusted annual outlay for construction was $1.06 billion in June.

Analysts continue to note a trend toward construction of smaller residential units including condominiums and apartments, with an emphasis on rental properties. This supports reports that would-be homebuyers are taking a wait-and-see stance to see how factors including rising home prices, fluctuating mortgage rates and labor market conditions perform.

According to a survey of senior loan officers conducted by the Federal Reserve, mortgage lenders reported that mortgage applications increased during the second quarter and indicating that financial constraints on consumers may be easing. According to the survey of 71 domestic banks and 23 foreign-owned banks, 44 percent of respondents reported moderate increases in loan applications, while only 5 percent of survey participants reported fewer loan applications.

Some banks surveyed reported easing mortgage approval standards, but fewer lenders eased standards than in the first quarter. Further supporting growing confidence among lenders, the Fed survey also reported that large banks were easing consumer credit standards for auto loans and credit cards.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by seven basis points to 3.91 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.13 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.95 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose from the prior week’s reading of 268,000 new claims to 270,000 new claims, which matched analysts’ expectations. In other labor-related news, the government reported a national unemployment rate of 5.30 percent in July; this was unchanged from June’s reading.

The ADP employment report for July showed fewer jobs were available in the private sector. June’s reading showed that private sector jobs grew by 229,000 jobs; July’s reading fell to 185,000 private sector jobs. According to July’s Non-farm Payrolls report, 215,000 new jobs were added in July as compared to expectations of 220,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 231,000 new jobs added.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is closely monitoring job growth and inflation rates as it contemplates raising the target federal funds rate. Core inflation grew by 0.10 percent in June; which was consistent with May’s reading and expectations. The FOMC recently cited the committee’s concerns about labor markets and lagging inflation. The Fed has set an annual growth rate of 1.65 percent for inflation for the medium term; this benchmark is part of what the Fed will consider in any decision to raise rates.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to usual weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

 

 

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Federal Reserve FOMC Announcement


2015
07.30

Federal Reserve FOMC AnnouncementThe stage was set in high suspense for FOMC’s post-meeting announcement on Wednesday. As fall approaches, analysts and the media are looking for any sign of when and how much the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate. According to CNBC, some analysts were projecting two interest rate hikes before year end, but the truth of the matter remains unknown until the Federal Open Market Committee announces its intentions.

Meanwhile, reports of what Fed rate hikes will mean for consumers were released prior to the FOMC statement. Real estate analyst Mark Hanson said that a rate hike would “crush” housing markets, which continue to improve slowly in spite of the current 0.00 to 0.25 percent federal funds rate.

Last Friday’s report on June sales of new homes shows unpredictable progress in housing. Analysts estimated that new home sales would reach 550,000 units based on May’s reading of 517,000 new homes sold. June’s reading came in at 482,000 units sold.

FOMC Statement: Current Federal Funds Rate “Remains Appropriate”

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserved announced as part of its post-meeting statement that it would not immediately increase the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement cited concerns over the inflation rate, which remains below the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. According to the statement, the FOMC will not move to raise the federal funds rate until the committee is “reasonably confident” that inflation will achieve the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent over the medium term.

No prospective dates for raising the target federal funds rate were given. The FOMC statement repeated language included in previous statements indicating that committee members anticipate that economic events could further postpone increases in the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement asserted that committee members continue to monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments as part of the decision-making process for raising the target federal funds rate.

FOMC members agreed that policy accommodation may be required “for some time” after the committee’s dual mandate of maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation have been achieved. This suggests that FOMC members are not in a hurry to boost rates when economic uncertainty remains.

In terms of housing markets, the Fed’s decision not to raise rates likely caused a sigh of relief as rate increase would have caused consumer interest rates including mortgage rates to rise.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 13, 2015


2015
07.13

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s scheduled economic events were few due to the Independence Day holiday. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates brought good news as mortgage rates fell across the board. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of its most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and weekly jobless claims rose.

Job Openings Rise to Highest Level Since 2000

The Labor Department reported that U.S. job openings rose from April’s reading of 5.33 million to 5.36 million job openings in May. This was the highest reading for job openings since the report’s inception in 2000. Private sector job openings rose to 4.85 million, an increase of 16 percent. Government jobs rose increased by 511,000 open jobs from April’s reading of 430,000 job openings. Based on the Labor Department’s report of 8.67 million unemployed workers, there were 1.60 job seekers for each job opening in May as compared to 2.10 job seekers for each job available in May 2014. There were approximately 1.80 job seekers for each job available when the recession started in December 2007.

FOMC Minutes: Fed Issues No Firm Date for Raising Rates

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of June’s FOMC meeting, during which nine of ten committee members indicated that they were not ready to raise the federal funds rate. One FOMC member indicated that they were willing to wait for another meeting or two to raise rates. While FOMC has hinted at the likelihood of raising rates this fall, committee members are wary of moving too quickly and cited developments in China and Greece as concerns that contributed to the committee’s current wait and see position. When the Fed does raise its target rates from 0.00 percent, consumers can expect higher mortgage and loan rates.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates fizzled last week with Freddie Mac reporting average rates lower for all types of mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 4.04 percent and discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at 3.20 percent. Average discount points for a 15-year mortgage fell from 0.60 to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 2.93 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

According to the Labor Department, weekly jobless claims rose to 297,000 new claims filed as compared to 282,000 new claims filed the previous week. There were no estimates for last week’s jobless claims due to the holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Retail Prices, Retail Prices Except Automotive and the NAHB Housing Market Index. The Commerce Department is set to release monthly readings for Housing Starts and Building Permits. In addition to Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates and the Labor Department’s report on new jobless claims, the University of Michigan will wrap up the week with its Consumer Sentiment report.

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Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds Rate


2015
06.18

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve did not move to increase the Fed’s target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent. Although the committee acknowledged further progress toward achieving the Federal Reserve’s dual goal of maximum employment and an inflation rate of two percent, committee members indicated that they want to see further improvements in both areas before raising the federal funds rate.

In its customary post meeting statement, the FOMC said that it may not raise rates when both goals have been achieved. This statement may have been meant to calm ongoing speculation that the Fed will soon raise rates. The statement also said that FOMC members may “elect to keep the target federal funds rate below levels the committee considers normal in the longer term.” This stance suggests that the Fed wants to be very sure that economic improvement is on a solid track before it raises rates.

The statement further indicated that the FOMC is not completely influenced by the Fed’s goals of maximum employment and two percent inflation; instead, the committee said that it will consider ongoing domestic and global news and economic reports along with readings on financial and economic developments as part of its decision to raise or not raise the target federal funds rate.

Analyst reactions to the decision not to raise rates suggests that the Fed is likely to raise rates at its September meeting and possibly again in December.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s Press Conference

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a scheduled press conference after the FOMC statement was issued and answered questions on a variety of topics. Ms. Yellen noted that retiring baby boomers are expected to take up slack in employment lags; as boomers retire, they drop out of the work force and reduce the number of people actively seeking employment.

Ms. Yellen also noted that when the Fed does raise rates, seniors and retirees could benefit from higher yields on savings.

In response to questions about when the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate, the Fed Chair said that the Fed has not decided when to raise rates and said that unfolding economic developments would play a role when the Fed does decide to raise rates.

Ms. Yellen encouraged emphasis on when the Fed will make its first rate hike. She recommended focusing on “the entire trajectory” of rate increases, which some analysts took to mean don’t panic about the first rate increase.