It’s not just the stock market at a record high that’s feeling the Fed effect.
Jewelry shoppers, home buyers, retirees and many others are feeling the ramifications of the Federal Reserve’s decision earlier this year to halt raising interest rates, at least temporarily. For some investments, it’s been for the better. For others, not so much.
It all started on Jan. 4, when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed would be “patient” in raising rates. In March, the central bank said it may not raise rates at all in 2019.
The moves have helped make stock investors whole again this year. Home buyers are also relaxing a bit, as the Fed’s moves have helped pull the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage down to 4.20% from 4.55% at the end of last year.
Here’s a look at how other areas of the market are feeling the Fed effect:
Gold is getting scuffed. Jewelry buyers are getting a better price on gold. An ounce of gold settled below $1,275 on Tuesday for the first time this year, well below its perch of nearly $1,350 in February. Gold tends to draw the most investors when worries are high about the economy’s strength or the prospect of inflation. Now that more investors see the risk of recession as off the table, thanks to the Fed’s changed stance, there’s less fear in the market — and less demand for “safe” investments.
Bond funds are chugging higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury has dropped to 2.53% from 2.68% at the start of the year, and analysts along Wall Street have been ratcheting down their forecasts for where yields will end this year.
When interest rates drop, it means that prices for older bonds rise because their higher yields suddenly look more attractive than what newly issued bonds offer. That’s helped the largest bond mutual fund by assets, Vanguard’s Total Bond Market Index fund, to return 2.5% in 2019, as of Wednesday. That’s more than it has in three of the last four full years.
It’s a sharp turnaround from 2018, when many bond funds lost money due to a rise in interest rates.
Savings rates may stall. When the Fed was steadily pulling rates higher in recent years, savers were some of the biggest beneficiaries. After earning very little on their savings, they had just begun to make a bit more on their money-market accounts and certificates of deposit at the bank.
Now that the Fed is on pause, though, the gains may stall. The national rate on a one-year CD has gone six weeks without an increase, the longest streak since 2017.
Stan Choe writes for the Associated Press.