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The Fed and the Future Direction of CD Rates

The Federal Open Market Committee meets this week to decide the direction of interest rates. Unfortunately, it's looking like the FOMC won't increase the fed funds rate. This is bad news for depositors as both short term and long term deposit rates will remain near current levels or only move slightly higher.

After this week's meeting, the Fed has two more scheduled meetings in 2016, one in November and one in December. It's unlikely the Fed will increase the rate just before the election so that leaves one more chance of a rate hike in 2016. Right now, the CME Group's FedWatch Tool has a 45 percent chance the Fed funds rate will be higher than the current level after the December meeting.

The good news is we are seeing banks in our database increase their CD rates to compete with the top national rates available. The bad news is we are not seeing any sharply higher rates and won't until the Fed gets moving on increasing the fed funds rate.

Right now the top national 1 year CD rate in our database is from TAB Bank at 1.30 percent with a yield of 1.31 percent. TAB Bank's 1 year CD rate is only marginally higher than a dozen other banks' 1 year CD rates which range from 1.20 percent to 1.30 percent.

Depositors have suffered for a very long time with low CD rates. It's been almost 8 years, since the financial crisis, that rates have been low. We have also had a few years of expecting rates to move higher but invariably, one piece of the economic puzzle keeps rates from increasing.

Looking beyond 2016 to future Fed predictions for the fed funds rate, things don't look much better. The median projections for the fed funds rate at the end of 2016 is 0.90 percent and this projection is already too high. The median for 2017 is 1.6 percent and at 2.4 percent for 2018.

2017 and 2018 projections are already starting to look like a stretch because the projected inflation rate is expected to be 2.0 percent or lower for the long run. The Fed's target range for the inflation rate is below 2 percent. If inflation stays below 2 percent there is no reason to increase the fed funds rate.

Author: Brian McKay
September 21st, 2016