THE IMPORTANCE OF INTEREST RATES FOR INVESTORS
Learn even more about this topic with the Encyclopedia of Personal Finance™
Do you have bonds or Treasury bills? A car loan or a
mortgage? What about stocks or mutual funds? All of these financial
instruments are affected by interest rates.
If you invest in bonds or Treasury bills, you are
essentially lending money. In return, you hope not only to get your
original investment back, but also to earn interest payments
(yields) that compensate you for lending. Obviously, you earn more
money if you receive a higher interest rate. Your rate of return on
the investment is determined by the rate of interest that you
If you wish to borrow in order to buy a car or a
house, you want the lowest possible interest rate. Often borrowers
will try to refinance their loans when interest rates fall. Whether
you are borrowing or lending money, interest rates have a
fundamental impact on your decisions.
Even the performance of stocks is affected by
interest rates. A stock's price is determined primarily by earnings
and future growth opportunities. Companies often finance new growth
opportunities by borrowing. If interest rates rise, borrowing
becomes more expensive and fewer investments are undertaken. This
may lead to slower growth in earnings, which would have a negative
impact on the company's stock price.
Furthermore, investor demand for stock in general is
affected by interest rates on bonds, which are often assumed to be
"safer" investments. When bond rates are high, investors tend to
choose bonds over their more volatile cousins, stocks, and vice
versa. However, bonds are subject to credit, interest rate, and inflation risks and can lose principal value when interest rates rise.
As you can see, interest rates have a
fundamental impact on nearly all investment decisions. The rate of
interest is one of the cornerstones of the economy. But what
determines interest rates? Let's take a look at one important
factor now -- inflation.