Fed's Bernanke Took Advantage of Low Rates to Refinance Home Mortgage

Friday, 07 Sep 2012 10:02 AM

 

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke refinanced his mortgage last year, cutting the rate on a 30-year home loan to 4.25 percent from 5.375 percent, his financial disclosure form shows.

Like millions of Americans, Bernanke benefited from a bond purchase program by the Fed known as quantitative easing, which helped push down rates on home loans to record lows. The central bank has bought a total of $2.3 trillion in bonds since 2008 to reduce borrowing costs and spur economic growth.

About 16.1 million U.S. homeowners have refinanced mortgages since April 2009, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data. The value of the Fed chairman’s home loan ranges from $500,001 to $1 million, according to his disclosure released Thursday.

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

The average rate on a 30-year, fixed mortgage fell to a record 3.49 percent in July, according to Freddie Mac. It was 3.55 percent this week. The average 30-year, fixed-rate jumbo mortgage rate was 4.18 percent yesterday, matching prior record lows in July and August, Bankrate.com surveys show. Mortgages in Washington for $625,500 and more are classified as jumbo loans.

Bernanke said his family-owned financial assets are valued between $1.07 million and $2.28 million. That compares with a range of $1.06 million to $2.31 million in last year’s disclosure, and $1.15 million to $2.48 million for 2009. The forms from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics require officials to report only a range in the value of holdings.

European Crisis

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was little changed last year and has rallied 14 percent in 2012 as the Fed pledged to strengthen the U.S. economy and European leaders tried to stem contagion from the region’s debt crisis. The central bank reduced its key interest rate to almost zero in December 2008 and has since engaged in two rounds of large-scale asset purchases totaling $2.3 trillion.

Large-scale asset purchases “appear to have boosted stock prices, presumably both by lowering discount rates and by improving the economic outlook,” Bernanke said last week at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Bernanke, a former Princeton University professor, listed retirement accounts, TIAA Traditional and CREF Stock Large Cap Blend, as his two largest assets. Both were valued in a range of $500,001 to $1 million, the same as the past two years. TIAA-CREF is a New York-based financial services firm that offers retirement accounts for academic and government workers.

Royalties from one textbook accounted for $50,001 to $100,000 in income last year, while a second book brought in $100,001 to $1 million, according to Bernanke’s form.

Bernanke Salary

Bernanke earns a salary of $199,700, an amount set by Congress. The Fed chief was appointed by President George W. Bush to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman in 2006 and was re- nominated for a second four-year term in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

Vice Chairman Janet Yellen and her husband George Akerlof, a Nobel laureate, held assets of between $3.4 million and $7.4 million, her filing shows. The couple, who said they hold most of their assets in a trust, listed stocks including Pfizer Inc., ConocoPhillips, OfficeMax Inc. and Raytheon Co. They also have a stamp collection valued from $15,001 to $50,000.

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

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