As the economy is pretty slow and most governments want to stimulate the economy through stimulus package and by decreasing their one day interest rate, we are currently benefiting from the lowest interest rate of the last decade (… century?).
We recently observed a small raise on long term mortgage rate (4 years and 5 years). Only a few months ago, it was possible to get 3.55% for 5 years in Canada. Now, we are back to about 4% if you can find a great deal.
So several people are asking: is variable interest rate going back up as well?
The short answer (and the long) is NO. So tell me why mortgage rates went up? Aren’t they following variable rates? Then again, the answer is no.
Long term mortgage rates are following the bond yields as they are similar (important debt amortized over a long period of time with a security attached to it). Since we recently saw an increase of yield in long term bonds, long term mortgage rates followed.
However, the variable rate depends on a totally different thing; the FED in the US and the Bank of Canada. Those entities have control over the monetary mass and the one day “inter-banking” rate. This is the rate at which banks borrow from each other at the end of each day in order to cover (the shortage) or lend (the excess) of money they have in their accounts. Historically, banks variable rate follow (almost) exactly the fluctuation ordered by the FED of the Bank of Canada. Therefore, if the Bank of Canada would raise its interest rate by a quarter, the next morning, all Canadian banks would follow by increasing their variable rate.
So is the variable rate will increase?
Over a short term period, the answer is clearly no. Bank of Canada expressed its wish to maintain the interest rate until June 2010 in order to give a chance to the Canadian economy. On the US side, many experts claim that the raise in the interest rate will only appear in 2011!
But if you want to go further, you must know what the main effect of a rate increase is on our economy. Imagine that you are driving a car at 100mph on the highway (and that cops (regulation) are having a drinking on you so they can’t stop you 😉 ). If you brake a little it, your car will slowdown. If you jump on the brakes like a maniac, you might crash your car in the landscape. Then, imagine the economy as your car. When you are driving too fast (and regulators our not “available”), one of the only way to slowdown the economy is to increase the interest rate by a few points (just hitting the brake gently). This is exactly what the Fed refused to do a few years ago thinking it would make our economy crash in the landscape.
But what if you car is driving 20 mph? If you brake, you will completely stop. And this is exactly what would happen in our economy right now. To be more accurate with my analogy, I would have to say that you are driving at 20 mpg, climbing a hill and if you ever brake, you will start going the other way!
So this is why I don’t expect to see the variable rates going up over the next 12 months…
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