What the Fed Rate Hike Means for You
Today the Fed increased their Fed Funds rate by .75 percent. While on the surface that doesn’t seem like too big a bump, this is the largest single-day increase to the Fed funds rate since 1994, signaling a serious attempt at Fed members to reign in inflation. The move comes on the heels of last weeks surprisingly high inflation report which shook up the markets and led to losses in equities markets and steep and fast increases to mortgage rates.
There is often a lot of confusion around the Fed Rate Hike and how it actually affects the mortgage market, so we hope to clear up some of the common misconceptions.
1. No, mortgage rates do not go up when the Fed Rate Hike happens
Mortgage rates are influenced by many things, but one of the biggest factors in the percentage rate offered to mortgage applicants is inflation. When inflation is high (as it has been for all of 2022 thus far), mortgage rates are higher. When inflation is reduced, mortgage rates usually come down with it. Since the Fed rate hike is intended to reduce inflation, the result is often reduced mortgage interest rates, though sometimes it takes time for rates to come down a noticeable amount. Today, however, the mortgage bond markets gained huge ground upon the Fed rate hike announcement and commentary, so improvements in rates were felt almost immediately for mortgage applicants.
2. Other debts will get more expensive, immediately.
The “prime rate” is tied directly to the Fed funds rate, and many of the most common types of debt are tied to prime. Credit cards and home equity lines of credit are two of the most common debt vehicles that do go up and down based on the Fed movements, so with the latest Fed rate hike, it can be expected that credit cards and home equity line of credit rates will see an identical .75 percent increase in their cost. Since more fed rate hikes are expected throughout 2022 as the Fed continues to fight inflation, it can be expected that this revolving debt will continue to get more expensive on a monthly basis for anyone carrying this type of debt.
3. Does a Fed rate hike mean recession?
Recession has been a hot headline recently, and for good reason. Many economic indicators currently point toward the US being in or heading toward a recession, however Fed rate hikes don’t necessarily mean recession. It’s important to note though, that rate hikes usually lead into recession. The reason is that higher rates cool off a hot economy by making borrowing more expensive. When borrowing is more expensive, there tends to be a ripple effect in the economy that often hits the job market (leading to increases in unemployment), and slows inflation, cooling the GDP and often leading into consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, which is the technical indicator of recession. Since we don’t know we’re in recession until we have 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP, it’s impossible to say if we’re in a recession or will be soon, but it’s likely the Fed rate hike (and subsequent rate hikes) could point toward recession sooner than later.
4. Does the Fed rate hike impact other rates and payments?
Through the same ripple effect, the Fed’s actions indirectly affect many aspects of the economy, but what the Fed funds rate actually is, is nothing more than the rate banks borrow from each other and from the Fed. When banks are borrowing for free or nearly free, as we’ve seen over the past several years, it allows them to offer lower rates and still profit. When their borrowing costs go up, to maintain the same margins of profit, the rates they offer consumers also have to increase, which is why borrowing becomes more expensive almost across the board. Mortgage rates are somewhat of an exception because of the impact Fed rate hikes have on inflation that we noted above.
5. How low will mortgage rates go?
No one has a crystal ball when it comes to mortgage rates, but historically in times of a Fed rate hike, and moreso in times of recession, interest rates decline. 2022 has brought some of the steepest increases we’ve ever seen in terms of how quickly rates have risen, and it remains to be seen if a decline could be just as steep, especially considering the weird market conditions related to COVID-19 that brought us the historically low rates of 2020 and 2021. If you’re considering applying for a loan, your best bet is to talk with a MasonMac loan officer to determine which options are presently available, and what type of loan product and rate best fits your financial needs!