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JEREMY HOBSON: Now let’s get to the hearing that’s about to start on Capitol Hill. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will defend the Fed’s $600 billion bond buying program when he testifies before the House Budget Committee. The committee is now controlled by republicans, who are expected to be tougher on Bernanke.
Richard DeKaser is an economist with the Parthenon Group, and he’s with us now from Boston. Richard, are you in for some must-see TV in a few minutes?
RICHARD DEKASER: Yeah, I think it will be interesting. The Chairman has been vigorously defending this policy because it’s fallen under political attack. I think he’ll do more of the same. And he’s going to basically try to make the case that’s working. You know, long term interest rates have declined. The Federal Reserve have been announcing these various programs over the past couple of years. Each time it makes the announcement, we see mortgage interest rates in particular move down. So I think he’s basically going to try and make that case.
HOBSON: But we did see this morning that mortgage interest rates are on their way up again. The 30 year fixed according to the Mortgage Bankers Association is now up above 5 percent. Does that signal that the Fed’s efforts are not working?
DEKASER: No I don’t think so I think this is losing the forest for the trees. You know it’s true mortgage interest rates have increased about a percentage point since their lows last October. However, last year mortgage interest rates were under 5 percent for the first time in half a century. It’s important to recognize that that was truly extraordinary. And even at today’s levels, and even if they should rise further from today’s levels, these are still extraordinary low interest rates by any historical standard.
HOBSON: Richard DeKaser, economist at the Parthenon Group, thanks so much for your time as always.
DEKASER: It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
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