There is really no question of whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates or not today. They’re almost certainly going up. The key unknown is exactly how much the central bank will push up the cost of borrowing.
The consensus is for a 0.75 percentage point rise, which would be the third hike of such magnitude in a row. That would push rates to the 3-3.25% range, the highest since 2008.
There is a generation who have never seen rates that high, and now they’re about to get the shock of their life as credit becomes a lot more expensive. Rates could feasibly go even higher in the coming months, which spells trouble for both consumers and businesses as it could take a long time for high rates to bring inflation down to the Fed’s 2% target rate.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “Higher rates will cause pain to households and businesses, with the jobs market being closely watched for signs of redundancies and hiring freezes. The Fed is having to be cruel in order to restore price stability.
“Equities have been pricing in higher rates for some time, as evidenced by a rocky performance this year. So far in 2022 the main indices in the US have delivered negative returns for investors, with the Nasdaq down 28%, the S&P falling nearly 20% and the Dow Jones sliding 16%.
“The FTSE 100 has been spared most of the pain, with the UK index down a mere 3.9% year-to-date, helped by having strong exposure to energy companies (beneficiaries of higher commodity prices), tobacco (value stocks are back in fashion) and banks (higher interest rates boost their earnings). And ahead of the Fed’s latest rate decision, the FTSE 100 continued to keep its chin up, rising 0.2% to 7,204, thanks to strength in housebuilders, commodity producers and retailers.
“Speculation that the new UK Government will announce a cut to stamp duty has breathed some life back into housebuilders’ shares, which had been weak this year on fears of a property market slowdown. Investors have lost count of how many times the Government has provided stimulus measures to the housing industry, and once again it looks like the sector will receive an energy boost from Number 10.