Lower House Prices, Higher Mortgage Rates, and Inflation

According to Realty Times, mortgage rates are still rising, although by very small amounts. The interest corrections are on the order of a few hundredths of a percentage point. Nothing that can really be called a "trend", although Freddie Mac and others certainly follow the rates on a weekly basis.

At the same time, the Realty Times notes that median house prices have seen some significant decreases in some areas -- although the article declines to say what percentage decrease or which areas are most affected. This decline is seen as more proof of a housing slowdown in the US -- and the main reason the Fed has continued to leave interest rates alone.

Given that the housing slowdown is proceeding at different rates in different areas, and some areas are even still fairly hot, I have to wonder about interest rates as the tool of choice to manage inflation. New York City has prices actually dropping, not just price appreciation slowing. The center of Seattle has prices going through the roof. Some areas of the US are potentially in need of interest rate reductions, while other areas should ideally see increases. The interest rate is a fairly crude tool to manage inflation, without the nuances needed for regional economies.

The same problem exists in Canada. Currently, interest rates there are on hold, while the province of Ontario is being hard hit by our US slowdown, and the Canadian west is booming (and should have higher interest rates in place to help balance that growth). However, the interest rate cannot be varied across a country, and so Ontario will suffer while Alberta and British Columbia continue to grow. In the same way, like slowing areas in the US will suffer while booming areas will benefit from low interest rates.

If inflation is really the enemy, then we need some new tools.

Michael

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