Here’s what could cost you more as the Fed raises interest rates

Topline

The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates for the first time in more than three years on Wednesday in a bid to tackle the fastest price spike in more than 40 years, but a series of rate hikes will also make a series more expensive debt deals.

Highlights

“Now is the time to aggressively pay off high-cost credit cards,” Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride said in emailed comments, pointing out that almost all credit cards come with a match. variable interest rates that fluctuate in parallel with the fed funds rate determined by the Fed.

A rate hike alone is unlikely to have a huge effect on small items, including auto financing, but McBride notes that uncertainty remains about how many more interest rate hikes will occur this year as the Fed seeks to fight inflation amid soaring oil prices. .

Although federal student loans come at fixed rates that won’t be affected, private loans — which make up about 8% of the market with some $131 billion in outstanding loans — often come with variable rates that increase after Fed hikes.

“Market volatility and wartime uncertainties have dampened rising mortgage rates,” but McBride warns that home equity lines of credit almost always come with variable rates that would have an almost immediate impact, and that fixed rates will likely start to increase for new mortgages. ; the average 30-year mortgage rate rose from 3.4% to 4.9% during the last Fed hike cycle.

A bright spot? “The outlook for savers is improving,” McBride says, noting that high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit will boost payouts, even though most banks “are likely to be stingy in passing on rates higher”.

To monitor

Fed officials are expected to announce a 25 basis point interest rate hike at the end of their two-day policy meeting on Wednesday afternoon, but Fed Chairman Jerome Powell was not very clear about what might happen after that. “With inflation likely to remain uncomfortably high all year, the [Fed] will probably only [stop raising rates] whether it thinks further tightening risks pushing the economy into recession,” Goldman Sachs economist David Mericle wrote in a Monday note to clients. Goldman expects the Fed to raise rates by 25 basis points at each of its remaining seven meetings this year, with a possible one-basis point hike if downside economic risks stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine diminish. .

Key Context

Record-low interest rates and billions of dollars in unprecedented government spending have helped keep the economy afloat during the pandemic, but record-high levels of inflation have rattled the market in recent months, and more so recently. . The S&P 500 index has fallen nearly 10% this year amid growing worries about geopolitical tensions and rising interest rates, which tend to hurt corporate earnings and stock prices.

Large number

$15.6 trillion. That’s the amount of US household debt last quarter – the highest amount on record, according to the New York Federal Reserve. Although most of it is contained in fixed-rate mortgage debt, the overall figure rose by the largest amount in 14 years in the last quarter, as rapidly rising house and auto prices pushed mortgage balances up by $258 billion. of $181 billion and auto loans of $181 billion. Credit card balances, on the other hand, rose by $52 billion, while student loan debt actually shrank by $8 billion.

Further reading

Inflation soared 7.9% in February to its highest level in 40 years amid growing uncertainty over record gasoline prices (Forbes)

Fed meeting minutes signal March interest rate hike still on track (Forbes)

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