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Chart: Axios Visuals

Mortgage rates have jumped to their highest level since early 2020.

Why it matters: The rising cost of home loans could slow the booming American market for residential real estate.

State of play: Across the country, house prices have exploded over the last two years, as the pandemic — and super-low interest rates put in place by the Federal Reserve — ignited a home-buying frenzy not seen since the housing bubble of the mid-2000s.

Be smart: The Fed uses interest rates to influence how the economy works.

  • When the Fed pushes the interest rates it influences lower, it affects the costs of borrowing for everyone from major corporations to would-be home buyers.
  • In recent weeks, interest rates have risen as the Fed has signaled that it's moving quickly to try to stop inflation from getting out of control. Mortgage rates follow the rates the Fed influences.

The bottom line: Higher mortgage rates will make homes less affordable for some, especially first-time buyers.

  • In theory, fewer buyers should slow the pace of home price increases.
  • Over time, a slower ramp in home prices will help lower the headline inflation figures — shelter costs are the biggest component of the Consumer Price Index.

Go deeper: Housing gap worsens through pandemic

Go deeper

What Biden's Fed nominations mean for policy

Sarah Bloom Raskin at a 2013 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

Now that President Biden's long-awaited nominations for vacant seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors have dropped, the big question is how Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa Cook, and Philip Jefferson, if confirmed, might shift policy.

  • The answer: Don't expect any big changes to the central bank's policy direction overnight — but do expect it to prioritize a healthy labor market more in the years ahead.

Why it matters: The Fed's actions shape the economy in ways that outlast the presidents who appoint them — and the Biden-appointed Fed looks to be a more explicitly pro-worker central bank than we've seen in modern times.

The big picture: With inflation running hot, the Fed is in the midst of a pivot to more hawkish monetary policy — possibly including raising interest rates in March.

  • Raskin, Cook, and Jefferson are unlikely to stand in the way of that pivot, and not just because the slow-moving Senate confirmation process means it will likely be well underway before they are confirmed for their new jobs.
  • The Fed is a consensus-driven institution, and the consensus has swung decisively in a hawkish direction in the last three months. Even normally-dovish officials like San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly and Chicago Fed president Charles Evans on board with the policy shift.

But over time, the new additions to the Board of Governors — who have a permanent vote on monetary policy, unlike regional Fed presidents who rotate — have emphasized the importance of running a hot labor market in order to achieve gains for workers and greater racial equality.

  • That implies the three new governors would resist continuing to push interest rates higher once inflation moderates.

What they're saying: "Inflation is so high and political pressures on the Fed are so strong (including from Democrats), that we doubt they will push hard against the will of the committee," wrote Roberto Perli and Benson Durham of Cornerstone Macro, in a client note.

  • But, they add, "Because all of them have expressed views in favor of broader expansion of the labor market, … we can expect them to resist substantial tightening in the future."

Regulatory policy is a different matter. If confirmed as vice chair for supervision — and Republican Senators will try to stop that from happening — Raskin would have more explicit power over a wide range of regulatory policy, and look to rein in the deregulatory impulses of her predecessor, Trump appointee Randal Quarles.

The bottom line: As the Biden Fed takes shape, it will include more voices focused on workers than in modern memory. But the course of policy depends on whether inflation trends allow them to act on those instincts.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
Jan 14, 2022 - Economy & Business

Even banks can't outrun inflation

Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For the nation’s largest banks, inflation may be too much of a good (for them) thing.

Driving the news: JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup shares fell today — despite delivering solid quarterly revenue and profit — amid concerns that the banks won’t be able to outrun inflation.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 14, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden's latest Fed pick signals brewing climate battles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's plan to tap Sarah Bloom Raskin as top banking regulator at the Federal Reserve could intensify the central bank's already growing focus on climate change.

Catch up fast: The news broke Thursday night that Biden will nominate Raskin, a Duke University law professor, for the powerful role of vice chair for supervision.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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