Weekly Buzz: ⭐ Gazing at the “r-star” – The neutral interest rate

05 July 2024

Share this

  • linkedin
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • email

Want more?

We thought you might.

Join the hundreds of thousands of people who are taking control of their personal finances and investments with tips and market insights delivered straight to their inboxes.

5 minute read

With inflation cooling from its recent highs, all focus has been on when the US Federal Reserve (Fed) might cut its key interest rate. But, in the meantime, the central bank has been doing something subtle, and crucial, that you might have missed – raising its estimates for the long-term “neutral” interest rate.

What’s a “neutral” interest rate?

The long-term neutral rate is the amount of interest that keeps the economy roughly in balance – neither too hot nor too cold (barring any unexpected shocks). It also serves as a stand-in for the “r-star”, that ideal, theoretical rate that balances savings and investments without pushing inflation out of control. And it sets the stage for where interest rates are headed.

Over the past six months, Fed officials have nudged their expectations for this neutral rate higher. When we strip out the outliers in their forecasts, the midpoint estimate has climbed above 3% and the median has risen too.

The thing is, the r-star is the Loch Ness Monster of economics: it’s talked about a lot, but no one’s actually seen it. 

It’s influenced by a cocktail of economic factors and the best we can do is try to estimate it using complex models that take into account various factors like growth, inflation, and how much people are saving or investing. Despite its elusive nature, this rate is a north star for central bankers, guiding them on when they should tweak interest rates, and by how much.

Bloomberg crunched the numbers and found that the neutral interest rate for ten-year US Treasuries took a dive from 5% in 1980 to just under 2% over the past decade. The impact was significant: attractive mortgage rates sparked a boom in house prices and cheap financing allowed even unprofitable firms to expand.

But we may be at a turning point. Major drivers like AI are likely to push the neutral rate of interest higher at 4%. And it may stay there, well into this decade and the next.

As an investor, what does this mean for me?

The era of ultra-low interest rates may be drawing to a close. As an informed investor, keep the r-star in view – interest rates are a huge driver of almost all asset prices, so a long-term shift could have big implications.

One way to ensure your portfolio is equipped to handle a different long-term macroeconomic environment is to simply diversify. Diversification works particularly well for navigating various interest rate environments because different assets react differently to rate changes. For a head start, consider any one of our General Investing portfolios – they’re invested across asset classes and geographical regions.

This article was written in collaboration with Finimize.

📖 A Little Context: The Era of Easy Money

Welcome to a new section of Weekly Buzz, A Little Context, where we dive just that bit further into the oftentimes interesting (sometimes dramatic!) history behind the markets.

For over a decade, we've lived in a world of ultra-low interest rates – a period often dubbed the "Era of Easy Money". This chapter in economics began in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when central banks slashed rates to near-zero to stimulate economic recovery. The low-rate environment became the new normal, shaping everything from mortgage rates to stock valuations.

However, as inflation surged and economies recovered in the post-pandemic era, central banks are now reassessing their stance. The rise in the neutral rate signals a possible shift away from this era of extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy.

✨ Navigating a “no landing” scenario

With inflation sticky and the global economy set for a recovery, what does the rest of 2024 have in store? Read our 2024 Mid-Year Outlook to find out how and why you should keep putting your money to work.

🇯🇵 What’s next for the yen?

Despite near-term volatility, we think Japan’s longer-term outlook remains compelling. Find out what the yen’s depreciation might mean for your investments, and where the currency might be headed next in just 5 minutes.

🗓️ Save the Date

Join Stephanie and Michele on 9 July for our Market Outlook webinar. Discover key market trends, strategic portfolio adjustments, and investment opportunities for the second half of 2024. 

Don’t miss this chance to gain expert insights and position your investments for success.

What we'll uncover:

  • Market trend analysis
  • Implications of the economic regime shift
  • Portfolio strategies for a high-interest-rate environment
  • Emerging investment opportunities

✨ Featured in App

Interest rates are at their highest levels in a decade. How can you make the most of this? Now’s a great time to consider expanding and diversifying your portfolio into other financial instruments, such as USD Cash Yield, so your risk is spread across different currencies and geographies.

Why invest in our USD Cash Yield portfolio?

✔️ Earn yield in USD 

✔️ Backed by the US Government 

✔️ No lock-in period or minimum investment

Watch the recording of our webinar for a deep dive into the USD Cash Yield portfolio. Uncover wealth-building strategies with it, and learn about its returns and risks. 

USD Cash Yield is only available on the mobile app.

*The yield to maturity is provided by the ETF fund manager and is not a guarantee for future returns. The latest annualised yield as of 31 May 2024 and may change depending on market conditions. As this portfolio is denominated in USD, foreign exchange rate fluctuations will affect your returns.

Share this

  • linkedin
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • email

Want more?

We thought you might.

Join the hundreds of thousands of people who are taking control of their personal finances and investments with tips and market insights delivered straight to their inboxes.