Market Update

Impact of the Federal Reserve Rate Hike

December 18, 2015

As expected, the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) at its December 2015 meeting raised the Fed Funds rate (the overnight interbank rate) by ¼% to a range of ¼% to ½%. This was the first rate hike in 9 ½ years. The Fed expects to raise rates by another 1% before year end 2016. By historical standards, this would be viewed as gradual, i.e. a ¼% rate hike every quarter versus a rate increase every six weeks in prior tightening cycles.

Our sense is that even this timeline outlined by the Fed may prove to be aggressive and the actual pace may be slower. U.S. interest rate policy has diverged from that of most other major economies. While our central bank is tightening, foreign central banks continue to take policy measures to flood their economies with liquidity to spur sluggish growth. All things being equal, this policy divergence will lead to higher interest rates here than abroad. This will tend to strengthen the dollar and suppress inflation reducing the need for a rapid series of rate increases.

Investors initially responded favorably to the Fed’s move as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied more than 200 points. The Fed demonstrated its confidence in the economy’s ability to grow by finally lifting interest rates above zero. For savers, this is obviously good news. For borrowers, this is hardly the end of the world. We expect increases in longer-term rates will be muted in part due to relatively limited supply of quality assets. Given the disparity between U.S. and foreign interest rates, the U.S. will continue to attract ample foreign capital to our bond market holding bond yields down. Mortgage rates may move up from current levels but the increase will probably fail to keep pace with the rise in short-term rates.

Any views or opinions expressed are those of Washington Trust Wealth Management. The information provided does not constitute legal, tax, or investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It does not take into account any investor’s particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status, or investment horizon. Please consult with a financial counselor, attorney, or tax professional regarding your specific investment, legal, or tax situation. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to provide investment advisory or other services. The information may change at any time without prior notice and is based on data obtained from reliable sources; however we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate or complete.

Connect with a wealth advisor

No matter where you are in life, we can help. Get started with one of our experts today. Contact us at 800-582-1076 or submit an online form.

Contact us

This document is intended as a broad overview of some of the services provided to certain types of Washington Trust Wealth Management clients. This material is presented solely for informational purposes, and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting, actuarial or tax advice. It does not take into account any investor's particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon. Please consult with a financial counselor, an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific financial, legal or tax situation. No recommendation or advice is being given in this presentation as to whether any investment or fund is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors, or markets identified and described were, or will be, profitable.

Any views or opinions expressed are those of Washington Trust Wealth Management and are subject to change based on product changes, market, and other conditions. All information is current as of the date of this material and is subject to change without notice. This document, and the information contained herein, is not, and does not constitute, a public or retail offer to buy, sell, or hold a security or a public or retail solicitation of an offer to buy, sell, or hold, any fund, units or shares of any fund, security or other instrument, or to participate in any investment strategy, or an offer to render any wealth management services. Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results.

It is important to remember that investing entails risk. Stock markets and investments in individual stocks are volatile and can decline significantly in response to issuer, market, economic, political, regulatory, geopolitical, and other conditions. Investments in foreign markets through issuers or currencies can involve greater risk and volatility than U.S. investments because of adverse market, economic, political, regulatory, geopolitical, or other conditions. Emerging markets can have less market structure, depth, and regulatory oversight and greater political, social, and economic instability than developed markets. Fixed Income investments, including floating rate bonds, involve risks such as interest rate risk, credit risk and market risk, including the possible loss of principal. Interest rate risk is the risk that interest rates will rise, causing bond prices to fall. The value of a portfolio will fluctuate based on market conditions and the value of the underlying securities. Diversification does not assure or guarantee better performance and cannot eliminate the risk of investment loss. Investors should contact a tax advisor regarding the suitability of tax-exempt investments in their portfolio.