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Why Is There Such a Focus on Interest Rates?

Interest rates impact the national and global economies

Sometimes, a small change can pack a big punch. This is certainly true of interest rate fluctuations — even minor changes can have major consequences for the economy. Yet, much of the general population doesn’t quite grasp the effects of interest rates and what they mean to the economy as a whole — and to our individual micro-economies in particular.

While people tend to pay more attention to interest rates when they are in the market for a mortgage or are carrying credit card debt, they do not typically notice daily interest rate trends. What they may not realize is that interest rates have a significant impact on the national and global economies and, in turn, our lives.

What Is Interest?

Put simply, interest is the price you pay to use someone else’s money. It is calculated as a fraction of the amount you use and usually quoted as an annual percentage. Interest is also the amount someone pays to borrow your money, such as the interest you earn on your bank deposit.

Interest rates in the U.S. are the responsibility of the Federal Open Market Committee, which is a branch of the Federal Reserve System, often referred to as the Fed. Based on a number of economic and social factors, this group determines the country’s monetary policy. Any changes the Fed makes to interest rates piques the interest of businesses and economic leaders because interest rates have a far-reaching effect on the economy.

How Interest Rates Affect the Economy

In general, the Fed determines interest rates based on how it wants to manage the economy and inflation. If prices are climbing too quickly, the Fed raises interest rates to put the brakes on the economy by slowing down spending. The theory is that when interest rates are high, people leave their money in the bank where it can accumulate interest. Consumer spending will likely fall — especially on big-ticket items like homes — because the higher interest rates give buyers pause or makes these purchases unaffordable.

If the economy is flagging, however, and needs an infusion of cash, jobs and business growth, the Fed lowers interest rates. Lower rates, which translate to slow savings growth, provide consumers with little incentive to keep money in the bank. They also encourage spending, and larger purchases — such as cars or homes — become more affordable.

Stocks and Bonds

The effects of interest rates on stock and bonds are also significant. In general, if the return on financial instruments like bonds is high, consumers are more likely to invest in them, which leaves them with less expendable income to put into circulation.

This lack of spending then usually causes the stock value of individual businesses to decrease because corporations are generating less revenue. Conversely, when interest rates are low, both consumers and companies tend to increase spending, which increases profits and stock values for corporations.

MBA in Finance

Understanding the effects of interest rates on markets, consumer and business spending, recessions, and inflation is important for any business leader. Earning an MBA in finance is one of the best ways to gain the skills to help an organization navigate an ever-changing economy.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi provides business leaders with the expertise to manage a company’s responses to market fluctuations. The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi MBA in finance offers degree candidates a sophisticated understanding of the economic issues surrounding multinational finance, investment policy, the effect of interest rates on financial markets and more. Additionally, the online MBA in finance gives students with jobs or family commitments the flexibility to pursue additional education without interrupting their lives.
Interest rates continue to influence businesses of all sizes in an increasingly complex economy, and an MBA in finance can provide you with the knowledge you need to help any organization adapt and prosper.

Learn more about the TAMUCC online MBA in Finance program.


Sources:

Investopedia: How Interest Rates Affect the Stock Market

Financial Times: Fed Pares Back 2017 Interest Rate Forecasts

Forbes: What Happens If Interest Rates Go Up?

CNBC: When the Fed Raises Rates, Here’s What Happens


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