Last week was mixed for the markets, as the Dow increased by 0.44%, while the S&P 500 lost 0.06%, the NASDAQ dropped 0.13%, and the MSCI EAFE gave back 0.55%. We also saw a variety of data released, giving a similarly mixed view of recent economic activity. Retail sales and the Consumer Price Index showed modest gains, while industrial production and housing starts both declined.
The biggest headline from last week, however, was a development the market anticipated for quite some time: The Federal Reserve decided to raise its benchmark interest rates - for only the second time since 2006.
Why did the Fed raise rates?
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the group of Fed officials who meet to determine interest rates and other policies choices, has a mandate to "foster maximum employment and price stability." In its quest to uphold this mandate, the FOMC aims to keep inflation at 2%, as this level can help support accurate financial forecasting and decisions while preventing harmful deflation.
The act of adjusting interest rates can help control inflation and support economic strength. At its most basic, when the Fed lowers rates, they are indicating that the economy is contracting - and when they raise rates, they are indicating that the economy is growing.
When describing her organization's decision to raise rates this month to a range of 0.5 - 0.75%, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said, "My colleagues and I are recognizing the considerable progress the economy has made. We expect the economy will continue to perform well." The FOMC also said they may introduce three additional interest rate increases in 2017, up from their previous prediction of two raises.
In other words, the Federal Reserve believes our economy is on the right track and inflation may begin to rise. They are using the tool of interest rate increases to help keep employment and inflation at healthy levels.
How did the markets react to the interest rate increase?
Overall, investors seemed to react reasonably to the interest rate increase. The VIX, a measure of expected volatility in the markets, increased by 4.6% - but it remains at low levels. In other words, the likelihood of great volatility seems slim.
One area of the market, however, did not respond well to the Fed's interest rate increase and inflation increase prediction: bonds. This summer, global bond markets experienced a rally in response to a variety of factors, including potential slowing economic growth worldwide. But since the U.S. election, the value of government debt has dropped by more than $1 trillion, as investors now expect greater inflation and a quickening economy. Essentially, the faster the economy and inflation grow, the less value that long - term government debt holds - contributing to the bond market's recent losses.
How could the rate increase affect you?
Rising interest rates have both positive and negative effects for individuals. If you have money earning interest in the bank, you can expect to earn a slightly higher return. Conversely, if you borrow money - such as taking out a new mortgage or refinancing existing liabilities - your interest rate may be higher than before the Fed's announcement.
In addition, the interconnected relationships between equities, bond markets, and other financial vehicles will evolve as interest rates increase. These shifts can be much more complex, and we are here to help you stay on top of any changes and align your financial life with the current market environment.
Monday: Janet Yellen speaks at 1:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Existing Home Sales
Thursday: Durable Goods Orders, GDP
Friday: New Home Sales, Consumer Sentiment
Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, S&P Dow Jones Indices and Treasury.gov. International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Corporate bond performance is represented by the SPUSCIG. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.
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Diversification does not guarantee profit nor is it guaranteed to protect assets.
International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors.
The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ. The DJIA was invented by Charles Dow back in 1896.
The Nasdaq Composite is an index of the common stocks and similar securities listed on the NASDAQ stock market and is considered a broad indicator of the performance of stocks of technology companies and growth companies.
The MSCI EAFE Index was created by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) that serves as a benchmark of the performance in major international equity markets as represented by 21 major MSCI indices from Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
The S&P U.S. Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index contains U.S.- and foreign-issued investment-grade corporate bonds denominated in U.S. dollars.
The SPUSCIG launched on April 09, 2013. All information for an index prior to its Launch Date is back-tested, based on the methodology that was in effect on the Launch Date. Back-tested performance, which is hypothetical and not actual performance, is subject to inherent limitations because it reflects application of an Index methodology and selection of index constituents in hindsight. No theoretical approach can take into account all of the factors in the markets in general and the impact of decisions that might have been made during the actual operation of an index. Actual returns may differ from, and be lower than, back-tested returns.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are the leading measures of U.S. residential real estate prices, tracking changes in the value of residential real estate. The index is made up of measures of real estate prices in 20 cities and weighted to produce the index.
The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
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