History Of Federal Reserve Interest Rate Increases

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History Of Federal Reserve Interest Rate Increases

Table of Сontents

  1. Why Does the Fed Increase Interest Rates?
  2. Economic Impact of an Increase in Interest Rates
  3. Lowest Federal Fund Rates in History
  4. Highest Fed Rate Hikes in U.S. History
  5. Most Rate Hikes In a Single Year
  6. The U.S. Interest Rate Historical Timeline
  7. Interest Rates & Investing


The Federal Reserve Bank (also known as the Fed) is responsible for carrying out monetary policy, which is known to have far-reaching effects on the economy of the United States. Changing interest rates on a regular basis may have a significant influence on a number of economic factors, including unemployment and inflation. Find out why the Federal Reserve decides to increase interest rates, what the effects of this decision are, and how often it takes place.


Why Does the Fed Increase Interest Rates?

The Federal Reserve’s overarching objective is to ensure that the economy continues to function normally and effectively. If economic growth begins to decelerate and a recession seems more likely, the Federal Reserve may reduce interest rates in an effort to boost consumer spending and employee output. In order to prevent the economy from becoming too hot, the Federal Reserve may decide to raise interest rates in response to a rise in both the pace of productivity growth and the likelihood of price inflation.

While adjusting to the ebb and flow of economic cycles and the effect of external variables such as geopolitical events, market upheavals, natural calamities, and pandemics, the objective is to maintain employment and inflation within acceptable target ranges. Therefore, the Federal Reserve may decide to increase interest rates as a method of combating out-of-control inflation or speculation, or it may decide to raise them merely in order to stabilise the economy after a time during which rates had been purposely decreased.

Changing interest rates, both up and down, requires a delicate touch. The poor choice might have significant repercussions in the near term. The Federal Reserve recognises that in order for its actions to have a beneficial influence on one facet of the economy, they may have a negative impact on another facet of the economy. In recent times, the Federal Reserve has been very careful to provide enough notice of its upcoming measures in order to try to calm the emotions of the market. However, some economists believe that this lessens the impact that changes in interest rates have on overall economic activity. This is despite the fact that disclosing adjustments in advance might lower the likelihood of adverse responses from market players.


Economic Impact of an Increase in Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve raises interest rates by altering the rates at which it loans money to banks overnight. This kicks off a chain reaction that has an effect on the interest rates that banks charge to corporations and people. When interest rates go up, the following things happen to the economy:

  • Borrowing costs rise for businesses, It might lead to lower investments in new plant construction, equipment purchases, marketing, and physical growth.
  • Borrowing costs rise for consumers, It leads to a decrease in consumer spending as well as the purchase of homes and investments.
  • Savings accounts and other low-risk investments earn more interest, enhancing the appeal of investing in securities with minimal risk of loss.
  • Markets adjust, with fixed-income assets usually decreasing in value and equity markets responding in a diverse manner depending on how much of an effect a rate hike is predicted to have on various kinds of enterprises.

Lowest Federal Fund Rates in History

The Fed Funds rate has been below 2.0% for about a quarter of the time over the past 67 years, the majority of which occurred during the 10-year period between August 2008 and September 2018 – the longest period by far in which rates remained below 2% in a continuous stretch. During this time, the Fed Funds rate has been below 2.0% for the most part. Other time periods in which rates stayed below 2% are as follows:

  • July 1954 – August 1955
  • February 1958 – October 1958
  • January 1961 – April 1961
  • December 2001 – November 2004
  • August 2008 – September 2018
  • September 2019 – April 2022

Since 1954, the Federal Funds rate has never been lower than 0.04%, which was reached momentarily in December 2011, January 2012, and again in April 2020. This number is considered to be an all-time low. There has never been a time when the rate was negative.

2008 Federal Interest Rate

The Federal Reserve responded to the mortgage crisis and the subsequent selloff in the financial and real estate markets by reducing interest rates in 2008. This was done in 2008. The rate, which had been above 5% for most of 2007, plummeted to over 2% in the middle of 2008, and by December of that same year, it had gone to as low as.12%.

2020 Fed Rate

In the year 2020, just as the global economy was beginning to show signs of improvement following the protracted recovery from the mortgage crisis that occurred in 2008, the world was blindsided by a pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, which cast a significant cloud over the global economic landscape. In order to mitigate the detrimental effects that Covid-19 had on the economy, the Federal Reserve once again reduced interest rates, and the federal government distributed stimulus payments to the general people.

At the beginning of 2020, the Fed Funds rate decreased to 1.5 percentage points from its level in 2019 of 2-2.5%.


Highest Fed Rate Hikes in U.S. History

People who were born after 1980 may find it difficult to comprehend this fact, but interest rates in the late 1970s and early 1980s were not only in the double digits, but they were also in the high teens and at one point even approached 20%.

The Fed Funds rate reached an all-time high of 21.71% in June 1981, and it remained at or above 14% during the majority of the 1980s and early 1980s.


1980 Federal Rate Hike

In 1980, the Fed did all it could to combat the inflation rate, which was at more than 14% at the time. According to data provided by Bankrate.com “The fed funds rate began the decade at a target level of 14 per cent in January 1980. By the time officials concluded a conference call on Dec. 5, 1980, they hiked the target range by 2 percentage points to 19-20 per cent, its highest ever.”

Most Rate Hikes In a Single Year

In terms of calendar years, 1980 was the year that saw the Fed Funds Rate go through the most significant range of motion during the course of a single year. The rate began the year at just under 15%, soared to 20% by April, fell to its annual low of 8.3% in July, and then went back up to 20.4% in December. The rate had begun the year at just under 15%.

The U.S. Interest Rate Historical Timeline

The history of the Fed Funds Rate may be seen beginning in 1954 in the chart that can be seen below.


Chart of Fed Funds Rate (Macrotrends)

Although it is to be anticipated that the Fed’s policy will shift in response to changes in the state of the economy, the Fed’s strategy may shift in response to a variety of variables, even when confronted with circumstances that seem to be comparable. These elements include the following:

  • The hypothesised reasons that are thought to be behind the present economic situation
  • The dangers that many thinks might threaten both the economy and the financial markets
  • The composition of the Board of Directors
  • The President and CEO of the Company
  • The current political atmosphere
  • The state of the economy on a global scale


The following is a summary of the activities taken by the Federal Reserve throughout specific time periods in modern history, placed in the context of the particular conditions that prevailed at those times.

Mid-1970s to Mid-1980s

The United States dollar was decoupled from the gold standard in March 1973, while President Richard Nixon was in office. This action resulted in an extended era of severe inflation. However, the removal of the gold standard unleashed a decade of sky-high inflation (by U.S. standards), which ranged between 4-14% during the 1970s and into the early 1980s. Inflation has spent the majority of the last 70 years fluctuating between 0% and 5% of the total value of goods and services produced.

It is speculated that the Federal Reserve’s decision to increase interest rates in 1973 and 1975 was not only a contributing factor to the 1973–1975 recession, but may have actually been the cause of the recession itself. In addition, during this time period, the actions taken by the Federal Reserve were anything but gradual. The rate would be raised or lowered almost at will, by up to 2% at a time, frequently at unscheduled meetings, and with little disclosure of its actions or future plans. Paul Volcker was the chairman of the Fed during this time period.

By November of that year, the rate of unemployment had fallen below 10%, and it has not returned to that level since.


Mid-1980s to 2000

In 1987, Alan Greenspan became the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and he continued to serve in that capacity until the middle of the 2000s. Greenspan’s actions, which exhibited a much more measured approach, were nearly never greater than.25-.5% adjustments and were telegraphed via disclosures of FOMC meetings, which is where the choices were normally taken. Greenspan was a member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). During the majority of his term, Greenspan kept interest rates in the range of 3-6 per cent, and he presided over only one short recession in 1990.

Even though the economy was expanding and not in a recession at the time, Greenspan was the one who started the initial cutbacks to the Fed’s “insurance” programme. These cuts were designed to give the economy a boost. This happened in 1995, 1996, and 1998 when the economy coped with specific concerns such as the default on Russian debt and the collapse of hedge fund Long Term Capital. This was a result of the particular challenges that the economy faced during those years.

Greenspan delivered his now-famous lecture on “irrational exuberance” in the late 1990s, at a time when the Internet boom was in full swing and the economy needed to be cooled down. He did this by raising interest rates to above 6%.


2000 to 2008

The beginning of the new millennium was marked by the collapse of the dot-com and technology stock markets, which was then followed by the events of September 11, 2001. In light of this situation, the Federal Reserve reduced interest rates a total of 13 times, bringing them down to 1% from a starting point of nearly 6% at the beginning of the decade.

The economy began to improve in the middle of the 2000s, which enabled the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates (although gradually over a period of two years) a total of 17 times, reaching a peak of 5.25 per cent.


2008 to 2021

The mortgage crisis that occurred in 2008 caused a sell-off that was even more devastating than the one that occurred during the dot-com bubble. This was because the mortgage crisis was coupled with a real estate crash that was unlike anything that had been seen in recent history, and as a result, at least two major financial institutions were brought to their knees as a result.

In response, the Federal Reserve, which was helmed at the time by Ben Bernanke, reduced interest rates to levels that were historically close to zero. A full year after Janet Yellen took over as chair of the Federal Reserve, interest rates remained close to zero until 2015. In 2015 and 2016, the Federal Reserve Board hiked interest rates by a combined total of just 25 basis points during Yellen’s leadership. After that, seven further rate rises were implemented between 2017 and 2018, bringing the total to 2.5%.

In February 2018, Jerome Powell was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve. In 2019, with low inflation and moderate growth, Powell gave the Fed permission to decrease interest rates three times in order to offer some boost to the economy. But as the Covid epidemic swept the globe, the Federal Reserve scheduled two emergency meetings back-to-back in order to lower interest rates back down to the near-zero threshold once again.


Federal Interest Rate Hikes In The Year 2022

Once again, interest rates stayed close to zero until March 2022, when Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell lifted them by a quarter point in response to an improvement in the pandemic shutdown situation. In the meanwhile, however, a number of supply shocks, almost full employment, and pent-up demand all conspired to bring inflation back into the picture in a very quick manner.

Powell chose not to overreact by chasing inflation with excessive rate rises straight away because he believed the inflation jump to be fairly ephemeral. However, the position on this is growing more hawkish as the dynamics underpinning inflation continue to endure. As a direct result of this, the Federal Reserve has signalled that there may be as many as seven probable quarter-point rate increases in 2022. Even with such increases, the rates would only effectively normalise back over the line of 2%, staying at the low end of the historic goal range of 2-6%.


Interest Rates & Investing

Increasing interest rates have a variety of effects on investment, some of which are primary and others of which are more perceptual in nature. The prospect of inflation, together with the issue of whether or not it will be a fleeting phenomenon, further complicates the situation for many investors. The geopolitical unpredictability surrounding the Ukraine War and the approaching midterm elections adds another factor for investors to take into consideration.

Rising interest rates are almost certain to have the following effects when considering them in isolation:


  • Rising interest rates will have a negative impact on the prices of bonds and other fixed-income assets, particularly those with longer-term maturities.
  • The interest rates that are given on newly issued bonds will go up, which will make them a little more competitive with equity investments.
  • Rates on bank products such as certificates of deposit (CDs) need to go up, which will put these products back on the radar of investors.
  • There will be a range of responses from the stock market since the consequences of increased interest rates will be felt differently by various firms and sectors. Costs will be higher for businesses that have a greater amount of leverage. It’s possible that businesses selling expensive goods that depend on customer credit may struggle. Given the increased cost of borrowing money, generally speaking, increasing interest rates ought to put a damper on people’s excitement for speculating.
  • Unemployment may grow.
  • The possibility of interest rates going up can also influence the behaviour of investors. Many of them may choose to delay making purchases on credit or sell stocks that were bought using margin. These decisions will be made more on the basis of their expectations than on the immediate reality of the situation.


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