Fear the Fed?

The market dropped last week because the Federal Reserve hinted they may raise interest rates in 2023, two years from now.  The Dow Jones fell about 3% as the topic of rising interest rates covered the airwaves.  The Federal Reserve also published their dot plot chart, a chart of where their members expect interest rates to be over the next few years, and several members expect rates to rise above 1.5%. Should we be concerned?

In 1994 and 1995, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates seven times, from a low of 3.25% to a high of 6%. From February 4, 1994, to February 1, 1995, interest rates jumped 85%.[1] What happened to the stock market? In 1994 the S&P 500 rose a paltry 1.3%, but it did not fall. However, in 1995 the index soared 37.6%.

From 1999 to 2000, the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates six times from 5% to 6.50%. The S&P 500 rose 21% in 1999, but it dropped 9.1% in 2000.

From 2004 to 2006, the Federal Reserve boosted interest rates seventeen times! On June 30, 2004, the Fed Funds Rate sat at 1.25%, and on June 29, 2006, it swelled to 5.25%, an increase of 320%. Despite several rate spikes, the S&P 500 rose 10.9% in 2004, 4.9% in 2005, and 15.8% in 2006.

From 2015 to 2018, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates nine times, climbing from .25% to 2.50% or 900%. The S&P 500 rose 1.4% in 2015, 12% in 2016, 21.8% in 2017, and it dropped 4.4% in 2018.

Rising interest rates are a sign of a robust economy and, potentially, higher inflation. Rising interest rates and higher inflation spells trouble for stocks. If rates rise high enough, investors will sell stocks to buy bonds or park their cash in a money market fund. For example, some investors would prefer to earn a safe 5% from a bond rather than risk their capital in the stock market.

Lately, though, long-term interest rates are falling. The Federal Reserve can only regulate the Fed Funds Rate, whereas the market (investors) control everything else, including longer-dated bonds. For the past three months, yields on the US 10-Year Treasury Note and the US 30-Year Treasury Bond are each down more than 15%. If investors are nervous about rising interest rates or inflation, the bond market is telling us otherwise.

Wayne Gretzky once said he’s successful because he skates to where the puck is going, not to where it has been. He is the rare athlete who sees plays develop before others. But Mr. Gretzky is not on the Federal Reserve Board, and predicting the direction of interest rates is hard; trying to identify the actual rate is impossible.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, said in 2019, “We’ve actually been effectively stockpiling more and more cash, waiting for opportunities to invest at higher rates,” Dimon said during a virtual conference held by Morgan Stanley. “So our balance sheet is positioned (to) benefit from rising rates.” At the time of the quote, his firm was sitting on $500 billion in cash, waiting for interest rates to rise.[2] What happened? The CBOE Interest Rate Composite Index fell 98.57% over the next two years! If Mr. Dimon can’t predict the direction of interest rates, who else can?

The effective Federal Funds Rate is currently .06%. The 67-year average has been 4.74%, so who cares if it rises a percent or two? I don’t.

When the market falls again because of rising interest rates, use it as an opportunity to buy great companies at discounted prices. Since February 4, 1994, the S&P 500 is up 797%, or 8.34% per year, despite several corrections. A $10,000 investment grew to $89,740!

Rather than waiting for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates in two years, diversify your portfolio, follow your plan, save your money, and invest often.

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” ~ Henry Ford

June 21, 2021

Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.

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[1] https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/openmarket_archive.htm

[2] https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/jpmorgan-stockpiling-cash-waiting-interest-rates-rise-ceo-2021-06-14/, Jeenah Moon, April 9, 2019