The Federal Reserve has launched several programs to lift economic growth over the past few years. The programs seem to have had the effect of raising stock values, reducing the unemployment rate and reducing mortgage rates -- all of which should increase Americans' wealth, make them feel more confident and make it easier to buy a house. In addition to keeping interest rates ultra-low, the Fed earlier launched two rounds of quantitative easing -- purchases of mortgage and Treasury bonds -- and two "Twist" programs that target long-term interest rates specifically. See related story.

Sources: Bloomberg, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Freddie Mac and Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller | The Washington Post September 13, 2012
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