Inflation Pressures Are Easing but Rate Cut Forecast Remains Uncertain

The New Year is beginning where the old one ended -- with uncertainty about when – or whether – the Federal Reserve will begin cutting interest rates.

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All those supposedly irresponsible consumers who “recklessly” borrowed too much money to buy homes they couldn’t afford are bad enough. But now, we’re told, people who can afford to make their mortgage payments are walking away, simply because they now owe more than their homes, located in depressed real estate markets, are worth.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have assured credit unions that they will not support any proposal that would eliminate the industry or marginalize its role in the financial services sector.

Stop the presses! We’ve found some good news peeping through the economic headlines in recent weeks. The grim reaper news still dominates, to be sure, but more upbeat – or at least, less downbeat – comments and statistics are altering the tone, if not the substance, of the economic discussion.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson hasn’t managed to end the subprime lending crisis, but he did succeed in driving it briefly from the front pages last week, by unveiling a sweeping plan for reconfiguring the regulatory framework for the nation’s financial system. Paulson’s proposal certainly attracted the attention of credit union executives, who were stunned – and not in a good way – by the plan to consolidate regulatory oversight and establish a single federal bank charter, effectively eliminating separate charters for savings and loan institutions and credit unions.