When the economic data align, and the Federal Reserve pulls the trigger on tighter monetary policy, rising interest rates may affect everything from mortgage rates to bond yields to economic growth. Here are a few of the possible consequences:
- Higher demand for short-term bonds. When interest rates rise, bond values fall, and vice versa. However, changes in bond values will be influenced by the speed and magnitude of the rate change. A sharp increase over a short period would have a greater effect than a gradual rise over a longer period. To date, the Fed has indicated the fed funds rate will rise gradually. Experts cited by The Wall Street Journal suggest shorter-term bonds and cash will be more attractive than longer-term bonds for a period of time.
- Less attractive loan terms and credit card incentives. By raising the fed funds rate, the Fed will increase borrowing costs. That’s likely to affect mortgage rates as well as automobile and other consumer loan rates. The Journal cautioned homebuyers to be wary of adjustable-rate mortgages and indicated zero percent introductory offers on credit cards may disappear.
- Slow improvement in savings account returns. Over the longer term, rising rates may prove to be a boon for savers, but there is likely to be little immediate change in the yields offered on savings accounts. That’s because banks set these rates. In general, banks raise rates to attract deposits and few banks need to do that right now, according to an expert cited by The Wall Street Journal.
While it seems counterintuitive, tightening monetary policy will not affect interest rates equally across all markets.