The Federal Reserve left the federal funds overnight rate unchanged Tuesday, but hinted that it might soon raise interest rates at a "measured" pace.At MortgageWire's deadline, economists were trying to decipher exactly what the Federal Open Market Committee meant when it issued a statement saying that "accommodation can be removed at a pace that is likely to be measured." Greenwich Capital economist Steve Stanley said a 200-basis-point increase "might be" considered measured, "relative to the 300-bp tightening in 1994." If short-term rates begin to rise, it will hurt the healthy profit margins now enjoyed by residential mortgage bankers. The yield curve -- the difference between short- and long-term rates -- will shrink, and mortgage rates likely will rise. But many mortgage-related stocks, including Freddie Mac and Countrywide, hardly budged in the wake of the statement by the FOMC, the Fed's monetary policy-making panel. The Fed can be found on the Web at http://www.federalreserve.gov.

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