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What’s Keeping Rates High?

What’s Keeping Rates High?

The delay in lowering interest rates is having significant implications on the economy and housing. Mortgage rates are tied to interest rates, and the Federal Reserve’s decision to maintain high rates is affecting everything from home buying to global trade. Here’s an in-depth look at the factors at play and their impacts.

The Federal Reserve's Stance

At the beginning of 2024, there was hope that interest rates would be cut throughout the year. However, inflation has proven more persistent than anticipated. On June 12, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that there would likely be only one rate cut in 2024, with more expected in 2025. This means borrowing costs will remain high as the Fed continues to combat inflation.

Traders have adjusted their expectations, now foreseeing just one or two rate cuts this year, a significant reduction from the six cuts anticipated at the start of the year. Some investors and economists even predict that there may be no rate cuts at all this year.

What is Keeping Inflation High?

Despite a drop in core inflation to below 3%, several factors are keeping overall inflation above the Fed’s 2% target:

  1. Persistent Housing Shortage: Shelter prices, which account for about a third of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), have remained high. Even though some reports show slower rent growth for new leases, the CPI has not yet reflected this change.

  2. Rising Energy Prices: After falling for most of last year, energy prices, particularly oil, rose in the first quarter. Escalations in global conflicts, like in the Middle East, could push these prices higher, leading to more expensive gasoline and electricity.

  3. Insurance Costs: Renters’ and homeowners’ insurance costs are rising at the fastest rate in nearly nine years, while auto insurance has increased by 20.3% over the year to May. The increasing technological complexity of cars is driving up repair costs.

  4. Market Reactions to Fed Communications: Powell's comments in December about the possibility of rate cuts spurred optimism in financial markets, inadvertently fueling economic activity and contributing to inflation.

Domestic Consequences of "Higher for Longer" Interest Rates

Powell’s indication that the Fed may maintain the interest rate at 5.25% to 5.5% has significant domestic implications:

  • Housing Market: The average mortgage interest rate in the US has remained above 7% for the past two months, cooling momentum in the housing market. Potential buyers are waiting for financing costs to drop, while supply remains low as homeowners hold onto their low-rate mortgages from the past.

  • Consumer Loans: Higher interest rates make loans for homes and cars more expensive, reducing consumers' purchasing power and potentially slowing economic growth.

Global Impacts of the Fed's Policy

The Fed's decision to keep rates high has ripple effects worldwide:

  • Global Rate Cuts: While the Fed maintains high rates, some global counterparts are moving forward with rate cuts. For example, the Bank of Canada and the European Central Bank have begun easing borrowing costs. This divergence can lead to currency depreciation for these countries, increasing import prices and complicating their inflation control efforts.

  • Currency Strength: A higher US interest rate strengthens the dollar, making investments in US securities more attractive. This can lead to a stronger dollar, which poses challenges for developing economies with dollar-denominated debt, as it becomes more expensive to service.


The Federal Reserve’s decision to keep interest rates high in 2024 is driven by persistent inflation and the need to stabilize the economy. This policy has significant implications for the US housing market, consumer loans, and the global economy. As other central banks begin to lower their rates, the global financial landscape will continue to shift, presenting both challenges and opportunities.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for making informed decisions, whether you're a homeowner, investor, or policymaker navigating the complexities of the current economic environment.

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