The Fed holds interest rates steady. What that means for your money


Fed may not cut rates at all this year, according to market forecaster Jim Bianco

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it will leave interest rates unchanged, delaying the possibility of rate cuts as well as any relief from sky-high borrowing costs.

Overall, expectations that the Fed is pulling off a soft landing have increased, but that offers little consolation for Americans with high-interest debt.

And now there may be fewer interest rate cuts on the horizon after hotter-than-expected inflation reports sent the message that “we are moving in the right direction, but we’re not there yet,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

For consumers, that means “a very slow downward drift in savings rates but no material change in borrowing costs for credit cards, auto loans or home equity lines of credit,” McBride said.

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Inflation has been a persistent problem since the Covid-19 pandemic, when price increases soared to their highest levels since the early 1980s. The Fed responded with a series of interest rate hikes that took its benchmark rate to its highest level in more than 22 years.

The federal funds rate, which is set by the U.S. central bank, is the interest rate at which banks borrow and lend to one another overnight. Although that’s not the rate consumers pay, the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and savings rates they see every day.

The spike in interest rates caused most consumer borrowing costs to skyrocket, putting many households under pressure.

Even with some rate cuts on the horizon later this year, consumers won’t see their borrowing costs come down significantly, according to Columbia Business School economics professor Brett House.

“The costs of borrowing will remain relatively tight in real terms as inflation pressures continue to ease gradually,” he said.

From credit cards and mortgage rates to auto loans and savings accounts, here’s a look at where those rates could go in 2024.

Credit cards

Mortgage rates

Auto loans

Student loans

Savings rates

While the central bank has no direct influence on deposit rates, the yields tend to be correlated to changes in the target federal funds rate.

As a result, top-yielding online savings account rates have made significant moves and are now paying more than 5% — above the rate of inflation, which is a rare win for anyone building up an emergency savings account, McBride said.

Since those rates have likely maxed out, this is the time to lock in certificates of deposit, especially maturities longer than one year, he said. “There’s no incentive to hold out for something better because that’s not the way the wind is blowing.”

Currently, one-year CDs are averaging 1.73%, but top-yielding CD rates pay over 5%, as good as or better than a high-yield savings account.

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