The world is a volatile place right now and as a trader, you are looking for solid information to help guide your trades. One of the key economic events that move the financial markets is the interest rates set by central banks around the world. In this article, we’re looking at how Interest Rates affect the market.

 

In May of 2022, the US Federal Reserve (the Fed) raised its interest rate by 50 basis points, which was its first hike in 22 years. As a result, major indices declined sharply across the US, Asia, and the emerging markets. At the same time, the US dollar (USD) spiked to a two-decade high, while the South African Rand (ZAR) declined 1.4% against the dollar. 

If you’ve recently opened a stock or forex trading account, understanding what moves the markets is key to your trading success. Before you start using your stock trading app, it would be best to recognise the correlations that exist between interest rates and different financial instruments.

Klips explains: What is Interest Rate?

When talking about interest rates, we refer to the rate at which banks borrow money from one another. This rate is set by the central bank of any nation and is named by different terminologies across different countries.

The US Federal Reserve and Interest Rates

As the US is the world’s largest economy (at the time of writing), the country’s central bank (the Fed) and its monetary policy can have a huge impact on the global markets. Experienced traders follow the Fed’s interest rate policies, regardless of the asset they trade. 

The next two terms are important to understand:

  1. Fed Funds Rate: This is the rate at which banks lend funds to each other overnight to maintain reserve requirements in the short run.
  2. Discount Rate: The rate at which banks borrow funds from the US Federal Reserve.

When you hear about the US Federal Reserve hiking or lowering interest rates, it refers to the Fed Funds Rate. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decides on the interest rate policy over several meetings each year. The easiest way to keep track of these events is with an economic calendar, along with press releases. Any indications of an interest rate hike or drop may trigger market volatility in various instruments.

What is the interest rate in South Africa? 

In South Africa, traders trading stocks, or any other assets keep track of the repo rate on their trading platform. The repo rate is the interest rate at which the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) lends money to commercial banks. 

Interest Rate as a Monetary Policy Tool

Interest rates impact the money supply in economies. It is the main tool used by central banks to increase or decrease the money supply. 

Central banks have two main priorities: to sustain economic growth and control inflation. When economies do well and experience growth, consumer activity increases, which usually means more spending activity all around. With more money in circulation, which is focused on buying limited goods and services, inflation increases. Inflation is the rate of increase in the prices of goods and services over a specific timeframe.

An inflation rate that is higher than the target of the central bank is bad for the economy. When this happens, the central bank acts by increasing the interest rate to make it more expensive for banks and businesses to borrow money, thereby reducing the money supply in the economy. For example, in its May 2022 meeting, the SARB increased its benchmark repo rate by 50 basis points to 4.75%, to curb the rise in inflation.

Conversely, if economic activity reduces, the central bank lowers interest rates to encourage more spending and investments. With lower interest rates, companies find it easier to borrow money to expand their businesses and create more products, which can lead to increased employment. For example, the US Fed reduced its benchmark interest rate to 0%-0.25% on March 15, 2020, to protect the economy from the devastating consequences of the pandemic. 

Typically, you will have an indication of what to expect from central bank meetings by looking at the most relevant economic indicators. Here are some of these indicators that you need to keep an eye on when trading.

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) – This is a measure of the overall change in consumer prices and is usually shown as an annual figure. 
  • Unemployment rate – The official labour departments of countries typically release employment reports every month, which include the unemployment rate, or the percentage of the total workforce that is actively seeking employment but currently does not have a job.
  • Real estate market – Traders keep an eye on data like housing starts, house price index and building permits to understand the state of the real estate market in the country which gives them a wider picture of how the economy is faring.
  • The consumer spending and manufacturing index – Data related to private spending on the consumption of goods and services and corporate spending on purchasing raw materials and machinery give insights into the state of the economy.
  • Balance of Trade – This is the difference between a country’s imports and exports. Trade deficits occur when the value of a country’s imports exceeds the value of its exports. 

How Does Interest Rate Impact the Stock Market?

A rise in interest rates makes it more expensive for companies to borrow money.  This is because financial institutions pass on the increase in interest rates to their customers. Businesses in turn may pass on the higher cost of borrowing to their customers by raising the prices of their goods and services. On the other hand, individuals also face higher credit card and mortgage interest rates, which lowers their disposable income. Due to this contraction of disposable income along with higher prices of goods and services, people reduce their consumption, adversely impacting the sales and profitability of businesses. This exerts pressure on the stock prices of companies, which in turn lowers stock indices as well. So, a rise in interest rates tends to have a dampening effect on the stock market in the short term.

However, when trading stocks or stocks CFDs (contracts for difference), you need to know that interest rates impact different sectors differently.

For example, financial institutions like banks, insurance and mortgage companies tend to gain with an increase in interest rates, as they charge more for lending. Stocks of consumer staples, which include essentials like food and beverages, also tend to perform well when interest rates are higher. Stocks of industrials, such as manufacturers of kitchen appliances or HVACs, also benefit from higher interest rates.

How Does the Interest Rate Impact the Forex Market?

Currencies are traded in pairs in the forex market and exchange rates are quoted in terms of the base currency.

For example, if the EUR/USD = 1.07, it means that €1 is worth US$1.07. Here, the euro is the base currency, while the US dollar is the quote currency.

When a central bank raises interest rates in an economy, it makes the domestic currency more appealing to foreign traders. 

So, if you are trading and believe that the US Fed will increase its interest rates, you might choose to open a trade where you buy US dollars (USD) in exchange for the euro (EUR) in anticipation that the price of the USD will go up after the rate announcement.

Along with you, many other traders will do the same, increasing the demand for the USD. This leads to an increase in the value of the greenback. An increase in the value of the US dollar will lead to a decline in the value of the euro in the above example. This interest rate differential is what causes currencies to appreciate or depreciate relative to each other. For example, when the European Central Bank (ECB) hinted at a rise in interest rates on May 24, 2022, the euro rose by 0.2% against the US dollar.

Conversely, a decline in interest rates can lead to a decline in the domestic currency’s value.

Key Fact

Many other factors impact currency values at any given time. If a country’s inflation rate is much higher than that of others, its domestic currency might not see much of a rise, despite the central bank increasing rates.

The Impact on Cryptocurrency Prices

You might think that policies focused on fiat currencies don’t impact cryptos at all. But there is an overall impact of monetary policies on the cryptocurrency market as well.

When central banks increase interest rates, it dampens the overall risk appetite in markets, which decreases the demand for higher risk assets, like cryptocurrencies. For instance, the average daily trading volume for bitcoin declined 60% YoY, due to indications of an increase in the Fed Funds Rate in April 2022.

Did you know?

Cryptocurrencies have been showing a correlation with the stock markets for a few years now. They particularly move in tandem with technology stocks.

Navigating Interest Rates Through Contracts for Difference (CFDs)

Interest rate announcements can cause market volatility, presenting several opportunities to start trading stocks and other assets. Whether the market is rising or falling, CFDs may be used to find trading opportunities. This derivative instrument allows you to take positions in the underlying asset without owning the asset itself.

For instance, if you’re trading a CFD on Apple’s stock, AAPL, and you believe that the stock price will decline when the US Fed raises interest rates, you can open a short position on the financial instrument. A short position means you agree to sell the financial instrument, with plans to buy it back at a lower price in the future. When executing a short position, if the market moves as predicted, the profit is calculated by the difference between the opening and closing price of the traded asset. 

Similarly, you can take a long position if you predict an increase in the financial instrument price. This means you initiate a buy order, with plans to sell it at a higher price in the future. When executing a long position, if the market moves as you predicted, the profit is again calculated by the difference between the opening and closing price of the traded asset.

Leveraged CFDs further allow you to increase your market exposure by entering a much larger position than what you could afford with your capital alone. You only need to pay a percentage of the full cost upfront. While leverage may increase profits when the market moves in your favour, it can also magnify your losses in case your prediction does not come true.

Although CFDs allow you to trade both rising and falling prices in the underlying markets, risk management is crucial in all trades. Proper stop-loss and take-profit orders can help you to limit losses and book profits in time when there is market volatility.

Key Takeaways

Interest rate decisions by central banks are important indicators to follow when trading as they can move the markets in a big way. Whether you are trading stocks directly or via CFDs, make the economic calendar your friend and check in on it regularly.

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Learn the terms 

Interest rate – The rate set by nations’ central banks that domestic banks pay to borrow money.

Going short – Selling a financial asset in anticipation that its price will drop in the future. E.g. In CFD trading if you short the EUR/USD you are selling the EUR and buying the USD to close the trade should your prediction go as planned.

Going long – Essentially the reverse of going short. If you go long on the EUR/USD, you are selling the USD and buying the EUR.

Contracts for Difference (CFDs) – A derivative financial product that allows you to speculate on the price changes of financial instruments like currencies, indices, commodities, and shares without taking ownership of the underlying asset.