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Industry & Trends

Whatever Happened to the Interest Rate Cut?

Lots of people thought the Fed would have begun rate cuts by now. Will they still do so in 2024?

The euphoria around the start of this year about the Federal Reserve cutting the prime rate, resulting in a subsequent drop in mortgage costs jumpstarting the new construction and overall housing market, has receded into a stubborn resignation that so far, it’s all about the status quo.

What happened and more importantly to builders and contractors anxiously waiting for a drop, when – or if – will the rate will be cut? It appears that economists and businesspeople (not to mention the IWF Network News editor in a story earlier this year) – drank the Kool-Aid that inflation was going to slow enough for the Fed to take action, starting early in 2024 and continuing throughout the year. Even Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell himself was generally indicating rate cuts and as recently as March he said the Fed was anticipating three rate cuts this year.

But inflation, while down severely from the post-pandemic levels that were driven by the dual factors of high demand and low supply, continues to be higher than the Fed would like and strong job reports are causing it to be overly cautious. So, rates have stayed where they are and so has the housing market, putting a serious drag on the new construction, remodeling and home repair sectors.

Now, while any forecasts must be taken with multiple grains of salt, it appears there may finally be some good news before the year is out. In its June quarterly meeting, the central bank was indicating there would be one rate cut before the year was out, though it did not say when. Looking ahead, it forecast four cuts next year, up from the previous three it had been talking about.

“The most recent inflation readings have been more favorable than earlier in the year, however, and there has been modest further progress toward our inflation objective,” Powell was quoted in the New York Times last week following the conclusion of its two-day meeting in Washington. “We’ll need to see more good data to bolster our confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2%.”

The current rate of inflation, as of June, is 3.3 percent but a further indication of good news came from Europe earlier this month when the European Central Bank announced its first rate drop since the start of the inflation cycle, cutting rates from 4 percent to 3.75 percent. Canada cut its rates too. The U.S. rate is 5.25 to 5.5 percent, depending on the specific financial property. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage currently has a rate of 7.06 percent.

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