Understanding Interest Rates (part 1) | Historical Highs and Lows

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Interest rates have a significant impact on your finances whenever you purchase an expensive item, such as a house or car. Interest rates have fluctuated a great deal over the past four decades as the ebb and flow of the economy has a direct impact on the prime interest rate.

History of the Prime Interest Rate

Individuals who have a perfect credit history qualify for what is known as the prime interest rate. Lenders calculate the prime interest rate by taking the federal funds rate and adding 3% to it. Most types of loans use the prime interest rate as their base. The prime interest rate hit an all-time high in 1980 when it was calculated at 21.5%. The all-time low was in 2008 when it was 3.25%.

History of 30-Year Mortgage Interest Rates

When most people start applying for mortgages, they opt for a 30-year mortgage. It takes a long time for them to pay for the house, but the smaller payments are more manageable, and many try to pay a little extra each month. As a general rule, the prime interest rate doesn’t have a huge impact on the amount of interest attached to this type of loan. The interest rate for mortgages is influenced by the bond market.

Historically, the interest rates on 30-year mortgages peaked in 1981 when the rate reached 18.63%. The lowest interest rates for 30-year mortgages was in 2012 when the interest rate was 3.31%.

History of 15-Year Mortgage Interest Rates

The downside to a 15-year mortgage is that the monthly payment is higher than 30-year payments, but there are still some compelling reasons to take out a 15-year mortgage. The first is that you’ll own your property free and clear in a relatively short period of time, provided you can manage the payments. The second big advantage is that the interest rates are a bit lower than the ones connected to 30-year mortgages. Historically, 15-year mortgage interest rates peaked in 1992 at 7.96%. The all-time low was in 2013 when home buyers were able to secure a 15-year interest rate at 2.56%.

Adjustable rate mortgages are the exception to the rule when it comes to mortgages. While 15 and 30-year mortgages are impacted by the bond market, adjustable rate mortgages are influenced by the prime interest rate. With this type of mortgage, lenders use the prime rate to determine the amount of interest attached to the loan. The rate fluctuates each time the Federal fund rates change. However, lenders do set a maximum cap on the interest rate attached to the adjustable rate mortgage.

Historic Interest Rates for Auto Loans

The most popular type of auto loans are 48-month and 60-month loans. The interest rate for 48-month auto loans peaked in 1981 when car buyers had to pay a 17.6% interest rate on their vehicle loan. The lowest interest rate was 4% in 2015. The highest amount of interest car buyers paid on their 60-month car loans was in 2007 when they were charged a whopping 7.82%. The lowest interest rate took place in 2014 and 2017. At the time the prime interest rate for 60-month car loans was 4%.

Why Historical Interest Rates Were Sky High in 1980

The overall economy is why the prime interest rate has fluctuated so much over the past four decades. When the economy is booming, the prime interest rate increases, however, when the economy slips towards a recession, interest rates decrease. This is because the Federal Reserve is trying to encourage people to spend money, which in turn is supposed to stimulate the economy out of a recession.

Inside The Economy with SH&J: Trade Uncertainty & The Importance of Bond Exposure

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On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss how this week’s Fed decision could determine the future of inflation and bond prices. In a news-driven market, how will talks of trade negotiation and the upcoming election affect the S&P 500 in 2019? The U.S. stock market has been one of the best performing investments over the last 10 years; so why is it important to continue holding bonds in your portfolio? Tune in to find out!

Market Insights & Commentary

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Investors couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2019 calendar year. It was only a mere five months ago that the stock market was experiencing a nearly 20% correction from all-time highs and everything seemed doom and gloom. Fast forward to the present, and there seems to be an entirely different sentiment in the capital markets.

2018 was an unusual year in that the bond market was flat and stock markets across the globe were negative. Typically, bonds and stocks move in opposite directions of each other, which is why investors own both in a diversified portfolio. Stocks took a nosedive at the end of last year due to fear that the global economy was heading into a recession. Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, came out at the end of last year and indicated that the Fed was going to be more patient in raising interest rates. Ever since these comments, risk assets such as stocks and high-yield bonds have taken off.

Economic data has continued to be positive as well, with no signs of a recession in the near future. Although GDP growth in the United States is slowing, it still remains positive. This was the goal of the Federal Reserve in raising interest rates, to prevent the economy from overheating but also to avoid a rapid slowdown that could force a recession.

There are worries that the stock market could have priced in all of its gains already for 2019. While it is unlikely that the stock market will continue its rapid trajectory through the end of the year, there really is no way to tell where the market will go from here. Trade talks between the US and China will continue to dominate headlines and have an effect on the markets. We still are in the later stages of the business cycle, so there will most likely be a bumpier ride for the stock market during the rest of the year.

If an investor is uncomfortable with fluctuations in their portfolio, it may be time to add more conservative investments, such as bonds, to act as a stabilizer. Barring any interest rate hikes, bonds should seek out a positive return for this calendar year. So far 2019 has been a very good year to be an investor in the stock market, but if 2018 has taught us anything, it’s that the stock market can deteriorate in a hurry. This uncertainty is why investors get compensated for the risk that they take, if they can stomach it.

Market Crash? Should You Sell or Hold.

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Market crashes are inevitable. They may not be predictable, but the fact is that the market will most likely crash at some point while you own stocks. The temptation to sell as soon as the market starts to trend downwards is huge. Many people will rid themselves of stocks at a loss, in the hope of avoiding a worse loss later.

Seeing any kind of a loss in the value of your investment can induce panic. This is called an “unrealized” loss and is a normal part of investing and there are many reasons not to sell during a downturn. Even when you have a large unrealized loss. The biggest one is that people who hold their stocks through a crash often experience a profit in the long term. Unless you are trying to make money quickly (and sometimes even then), selling during a downturn is a guaranteed loss.

Instead, you should keep your time horizon in mind. Many investors are saving for retirement. The reality these days is that retirement can last a few decades and chances are you will make money by holding. Financial writer Ben Carlson invented an imaginary awful investor, Bob, who made his first investment right before a huge crash in 1973, then again before the crashes in 1987, 2000, and 2007. After a lifetime of bad luck, Bob still decided to hold on to his investments without ever selling until he retired when he ended up with a 9% annualized return.

Rather than selling your stocks during a crash, many advisors would actually argue for buying more. Taking advantage of a dip can increase your wealth in the long term since you’re essentially buying stocks at a discounted price. Market crashes are often followed by upturns.

So, what should you do to make sure that you aren’t forced to sell during a downturn? Ideally, you should have enough in your emergency fund so you don’t need to rely on your investments for necessary spending. Try to target an amount that would cover at least three months of spending, with six months or a year being even better.

It’s easy to let emotions overrule reason, so staying calm, sticking to your plan, and not panicking are vital to weathering a downturn. Historically, bear markets have lasted an average of 1.4 years and afterwards, your long term investments typically recover in time. No matter how severe a crash is, don’t let panic overwhelm you and cause you to sell your investments. If you need more advice on how to weather a downturn and develop a long term investing strategy to meet your goals, contact Sharkey, Howes & Javer today.