The information reviewed at the March 13 meeting suggested that economic activity was expanding moderately. Labor market conditions continued to improve and the unemployment rate declined further, although it remained elevated. Overall consumer price inflation was relatively subdued in recent months. More recently, prices of crude oil and gasoline increased substantially. Measures of long-run inflation expectations remained stable.
Yeah, right. $5 gasoline is doing great as an expectation and $4 realized prices are too. Trust me on this one.
Housing market activity improved somewhat in recent months but continued to be restrained by the substantial inventory of foreclosed and distressed properties, tight credit conditions for mortgage loans, and uncertainty about the economic outlook and future home prices. After increasing in December, starts of new single-family homes remained at that higher level in January, likely boosted in part by unseasonably warm weather; in both months, starts ran above permit issuance. Sales of new and existing homes stepped up further in recent months, though they still remained at quite low levels. Home prices were flat, on balance, in December and January.
The best measure of the influence foreclosures have on the broader market is the 20-city S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index that tracks deeds, including homes sold directly by banks and deals that don’t use mortgages, said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. The index probably will fall 5 percent to 10 percent this year, a range that depends on the condition of the mothballed homes, he said.
Overall U.S. consumer prices, as measured by the PCE price index, increased at a modest rate in December and January. Consumer energy prices rose in January after decreasing markedly in December, and survey data indicated that gasoline prices moved up considerably in February and early March. Meanwhile, increases in consumer food prices slowed in recent months. Consumer prices excluding food and energy also rose modestly in December and January. Near-term inflation expectations from the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers were unchanged in February, and longer-term inflation expectations in the survey remained in their recent range.
How about asset prices?
That’s inflation too, you know…
Nevertheless, the staff continued to forecast that real GDP growth would pick up only gradually in 2012 and 2013, supported by accommodative monetary policy, easing credit conditions, and improvements in consumer and business sentiment. The wide margin of slack in product and labor markets was expected to decrease gradually over the projection period, but the unemployment rate was expected to remain elevated at the end of 2013.
The staff also revised up its forecast for inflation a bit compared with the projection prepared for the January FOMC meeting, reflecting recent data indicating higher paths for the prices of oil, other commodities, and imports, along with a somewhat narrower margin of economic slack in the March forecast. However, with energy prices expected to level out in the second half of this year, substantial resource slack persisting over the forecast period, and stable long-run inflation expectations, the staff continued to project that inflation would be subdued in 2012 and 2013.
No really? You pump your own gas now Ben?
In their discussion of monetary policy for the period ahead, members agreed that it would be appropriate to maintain the existing highly accommodative stance of monetary policy. In particular, they agreed to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent, to continue the program of extending the average maturity of the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities as announced in September, and to retain the existing policies regarding the reinvestment of principal payments from Federal Reserve holdings of securities.
“Wave hands, shout and scream, tell everyone it’s all ok ’cause Bernanke has their back”
The market says