The language from the Federal Reserve can be frustratingly ambiguous. The minutes of the latest Fed governors meeting, released this past Wednesday, state that “economic activity expanded at a modest pace during the first half of the year,” which indicates the economy still isn't growing at a pace the Fed would like to see. At the same time, the Fed has hinted that it could begin tapering quantitative easing within the next month or two.

It can all be a bit confusing.

The key variable in the equation, and we've said this repeatedly, is job growth. Accelerating job growth means accelerating economic growth, and then, for sure, the Fed will begin to taper and mortgage rates will rise. But if job growth continues to come in at, or below, current expectations, we'll likely see the unemployment rate hold current levels, which is unacceptable to the Fed.

Our best guess is that the current mortgage-rate range will hold through summer. If we don't see a material change in the unemployment rate by the end of the third quarter, we'd expect the Fed's commitment to quantitative easing to push into 2014, which means mortgage rates would hold the current range through 2013.

  Courtesy of Jessica Regan.

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