The Federal Reserve didn’t do credit union executives any favors as they budget and drawing up strategic plans for 2013 and beyond.
On Thursday, the Federal Open Market Committee announced it anticipates keeping the federal funds rate “exceptionally low” through at least mid-2015.
The FOMC also said in a release that it would retain the current fed funds target range of between 0 and 0.25%.
Robert Allen, president/CEO of the $4.6 billion Teachers FCU of Hauppauge, N.Y., said the low rate environment continues to tighten the interest income spread, and pressures credit unions into looking at fee income, “which we’re averse to.”
Allen is a member of the New York Fed’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council.
On the bright side, low rates benefit borrowing members; however, they also hurt savers and retirees living off dividend income, he added.
Brian Turner, director and chief strategist at Catalyst Strategic Solutions in Plano, Texas, said the low rate climate is “less rate sensitive to members and more relevant to how they are recovering lost household wealth.”
Members can decrease their personal debt burdens, but Turner said a “burnout syndrome” is in effect as members are feeling “financial cabin fever.”
“Similar to the feeding frenzy that follows a fast, this sparks ‘flash market euphoria’ as members hit the retail markets running, if only to satisfy their immediate hunger,” he said.
The likelihood of a prolonged, stable growth in consumer spending is still not on the near horizon, he added. Instead, spending flashes are more likely and a waiting game will continue until an improving employment sector alters consumer perceptions and sparks positive spending behavior.
“This requires the FOMC to keep short term rates in check for a while longer, while at the same time manage volatility in long-term rates,” he said. “Let’s just hope that the volatility coincides nicely with the flash markets.”
The FOMC also announced it would purchase additional agency mortgage backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month, continue through the end of 2012 a program to extend the average maturity of its securities, and continue to reinvest principal payments from agency debt and MBS.
The actions, which will increase the Fed’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the 2012, should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, the Fed said in a release.
“The Fed believes the previous two rounds of asset purchases had a significant impact on reducing long-term interest rates and were effective at increasing employment by 2 million jobs over the last four years,” said NAFCU Chief Economist David Carrier.
“The central bank clearly expects that the next round of asset purchases will have a similar effect in generating new employment over the next couple of years," he said.