Federal Reserve Blinks, Holding Key Rate Flat; Investors to Enjoy a Temporary Reprieve from Rising Rates

September 17, 2015

  • After weeks of speculation punctuated by a bout of volatility in global equity markets, the Federal Reserve opted Thursday to maintain its benchmark lending rate at or near zero percent. While acknowledging that the U.S. labor market continues to improve, the central bank also heeded softer conditions in foreign economies in reaching its decision to defer the first hike in the Federal Funds rate in approximately nine years. Fed Chair Janet Yellen and voting members of the policy committee will proceed cautiously, monitoring for contagion risks from other countries that could adversely affect U.S. economic performance.

  • The Fed’s next opportunity to take up the rate hike question comes at its meeting next month, but it may wait until December to act. Until the next meeting, the Fed will scrutinize incoming data on economic momentum, inflation trends and international volatility. Mortgage spreads widened during the summer in anticipation of a rate increase, and little appreciable effect on spreads is likely to occur in the near term.
  • The central bank’s decision to hold will likely spark a new round of questions about the strength of the U.S. economy in spite of relatively strong underlying fundamentals. Through August, the labor market had added an average of 212,000 jobs per month, an amount less than the pace set in 2014 but sufficient to support a forecast of 2.7 million positions this year. Factors weighing on the U.S. economy, however, include soft exports stemming from the strong U.S. dollar and anemic inflation principally related to low gas prices. Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy, rose only 1.8 percent year over year, below the Fed’s target threshold of 2.0 percent.
  • Commercial property sectors continue to perform well amid this extended period of low interest rates and the Federal Reserve’s decision will not disrupt property performance. With job growth generating new commercial space demand that dramatically outpaces construction levels, vacancy in the primary property segments remains on track to decline this year and support additional rent gains. Apartment construction has ramped up, but favorable demographic trends and challenging conditions for first-time homebuyers will continue to sustain extremely low vacancy in the multifamily sector.
  • Low interest rates, steady performance gains and competitive yields are supporting investment in a wide array of commercial properties. Transactions in 2015 are on course to exceed pre-recession peak levels, and most property sectors continue to see inflows of equity and disciplined underwriting by debt providers. With positive economic trends lifting gauges of property performance, commercial real estate remains a favored asset class on a risk-adjusted basis.

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The information contained herein was obtained from sources deemed reliable. Every effort was made to obtain complete and accurate information; however, no representation, warranty or guarantee to the accuracy, express or implied, is made.

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