The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other (typically overnight) within the Federal Reserve System.
|Federal funds rate raised|
On Wednesday, December 16, 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds target rate, the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other (typically overnight) within the Federal Reserve System. Since December 2008, the Fed had kept the range at a previously unheard-of level of 0% to 0.25% to help ensure that credit would be available to promote economic recovery. With this change, the target range will be 0.25% to 0.50%. In announcing its decision, the Federal Open Market Committee explained that the economy has been expanding moderately and is expected to continue expanding at a similar pace. The Committee also stated that it expects labor market conditions will continue to strengthen and that inflation will rise to 2% over the medium term.
Since the federal funds rate is a short-term rate that banks pay to borrow money, it is a factor in how banks set their own rates. The federal funds rate also serves as a benchmark for many short-term rates, such as saving accounts, money market accounts, and short-term bonds.Additional increases ahead?
According to the Committee, "[i]n determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation." (Source: Federal Reserve Press Release, December 16, 2015) The Committee stated that it expects economic conditions will result in only gradual increases to the federal funds rate. This means that it's possible there will be additional small increases in the coming year, though it is unlikely there will be a large jump.What does it mean for you?
First, it's important to put things in perspective. Despite all the headlines, by any measure this is a small increase. And the increase itself is a reflection of an improving economy.
The federal funds rate does have an effect on interest rates in general, though. So, here are some things to consider:
- Bond prices tend to fall when interest rates rise. Longer-term bonds may feel a greater impact than those with shorter maturities. That's because when interest rates are rising, bond investors may be reluctant to tie up their money for longer periods if they anticipate higher yields in the future; and the longer a bond's term, the greater the risk that its yield may eventually be superceded by that of newer bonds. Of course, while bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original value, if you hold a bond to maturity, you would suffer no loss of principal unless the issuer defaults.
- Rising interest rates can affect equities as well, though not as directly as bonds. For example, companies that have borrowed heavily in recent years to take advantage of low rates could see borrowing costs increase, which could affect their bottom lines. And if interest rates continue to rise to a level that's more competitive with the return on stocks, investor demand for equities could fall.
- Rising interest rates could eventually help savers who have money in cash alternatives. Savings accounts, CDs, and money market funds are all likely to provide somewhat higher income. The downside, though, is that if higher rates are accompanied by inflation, these cash alternatives may not keep pace with rising prices.
- The prime rate, which commercial banks charge their best customers, is typically tied to the federal funds rate. Though actual rates can vary widely, small-business loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, home-equity lines of credit, credit cards, and new auto loans are often linked to the prime rate, which means that when the federal funds rate increases, the rates on these types of loans tend to go up as well.
- Although a number of other factors come into play, increases in the federal funds rate may also put some upward pressure on new fixed home mortgage rates.
The bottom line? Don't overreact. But do take this opportunity to think about how rising interest rates could affect you, and consider discussing your overall situation with your financial professional.
All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Before investing in a mutual fund, carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the fund. This information can be found in the prospectus, which can be obtained from the fund or from your financial professional. Read it carefully before investing.
An investment in a money market fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although a money market fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund. Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest-rate, and credit risks associated with their underlying bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund's performance.
There is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results. However, a financial professional who focuses on your overall objectives can help you consider strategies that could have a substantial effect on your long-term financial situation.