The relationship between interest rates and the markets is a complicated one — and one that has come to the forefront as President Donald Trump criticizes the Federal Reserve for raising rates.
Keeping the rates low — something the Fed and the central banks in other countries did to help jump-start the economy — contributes to quantitative easing, which is a release of more capital to the markets.
As a result, investors might take more risks, putting more money into stocks than in safer investments.
"There's that whole thing called TINA, there is no alternative, which means all you wanted to do was to buy stocks because you couldn't make any money on fixed income," said Martha Pomerantz, a partner in Evercore Wealth Management's Twin Cities office, at the Star Tribune's annual Investors Roundtable in December.
"Now we're on the other side of it, where, because the economies all around the world have gotten a little bit better, healthier, all those countries and those central governments are trying to raise interest rates so that they have more power so that when there's more of a recession or some other issue, they have the ability to lower rates again," she said. "Now there's a balance. You can make a decision, 'Do I want to own equities or do I want to own bonds?' Now, if I own bonds, my rates are a little bit better and now there's a little bit of a competitive tug between the two of them and that's sort of changing the dynamics."
The downside of "normalizing" market factors is that sometimes there's a stormy period that follows.
When the Fed ended quantitative easing over a 10-month period in 2014, there was an "aftershock," said Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer of the Leuthold Group.
"It ramped up the value of the dollar and it crashed commodities and we had a pretty nasty downturn," he said. "I mean, it was just a correction, [in] '15 and '16, but if you were in small cap stocks or foreign stocks, that really hurt."
Quantitative easing peaked globally last year, Ramsey said, with a trillion-dollar increase across the five largest global central banks, which was tapering to zero by the end of the year.
"One of the great mysteries of the whole last decade was what interest rate level would slow the economy," said Justin Kelly, CEO of Winslow Capital. "And guess what? We just found out it's 3¼."
For example, the housing market has slowed considerably, he said.
Bloomberg reports that Deutsche Bank AG strategist Aleksandar Kocic, one of the few analysts to predict the wild declines of the fourth quarter, contends that years of quantitative easing after the financial crisis effectively saw the central bank take systemic risk out of the market. Now the backstop for risk is going to cause a market correction.