Rates are Fed Up

January 24, 2022

Last Week in Review: Rates are Fed Up

Home loan rates ticked up to the highest levels in two years. Let’s discuss what’s happened this past week and what to watch in the weeks ahead.

Interest Rates Rising Globally

The U.S. bond market took the long weekend to ponder Federal Reserve Monetary Policy and what they will do at next week’s Fed meeting and beyond.

Once the bond market reopened on Tuesday, it came to the realization that rates “can only go up from here.”

Much like 2018, the Fed is hawkish and they want to raise rates multiple times and possibly “shrink” their balance sheet (sell bonds).

The Treasury market saw the 2-year note yield, an instrument that responds to the notion of Fed rate hikes, spike above 1.00% for the first time in two years. The 10-year yield, which many look to as a rate that ebbs and flows with mortgage rates, ticked up above 1.85%, also the highest in two years.

Mortgage-backed securities (MBS), where home loan rates are derived, dropped sharply again, pushing rates to the highest mark in two years.

The spike here caused ripples abroad, where the German 10-year bund yield crept up to 0.0% for the first time in years. Germany and most of Europe have had negative rates for years and 2022 may be the year that changes.

Oil Prices Spiking

Just when you thought it was safe to fill up your tank, oil has gushed to $86 … a seven-year high. This spike is untimely as we are already dealing with 7% consumer inflation and a market fearing multiple Fed rate hikes to fight inflation. In the absence of oil prices receding, it will lead to more inflation and expectations of even more. On the latter, this is the fear of the Fed, that consumers will get comfortable and expect higher prices in the future. Inflation expectations are self-fulfilling, meaning if we expect higher prices, we get them. The opposite is true.

It’s All About the Fed, Folks

There is no lack of opinions on what the Fed will do this year as it relates to interest rates and their balance sheet. And it is this uncertainty that has caused incredible volatility in the stock and bond markets. The markets are fearing the Fed will hike rates four times or more this year.

Back in 2018, the Fed hiked rates four times and ultimately stocks declined sharply and housing was disrupted. Subsequently, the Fed spent 2019 reversing all the hawkishness and cut rates in July 2019.

Listening to the Fed is very important as the financial markets and housing are tethered to interest rates, which they control … to some degree. Let’s see what they say and do next week.

Bottom line: The sentiment in the financial markets has shifted very quickly. The Fed went from a tailwind to a headwind as it relates to rates. If you are considering a mortgage, rates are still suppressed thanks to the Fed bond-buying program which will end in March. Don’t delay.

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