interest rates

The Week in Public Finance: A Rate Hike, Unpredictable Taxpayers and Stress-Testing Budgets

BY  JUNE 16, 2017
The Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Shutterstock)

A Rate Hike

The Federal Reserve announced this week that it's raising interest rates by one quarter of a percentage point, which is its second short-term increase of the year. The move was widely expected but comes amid expectations that inflation is running well below the central bank’s 2 percent target for 2017.

The Fed also released more details on how it plans to unwind its $4.5 trillion portfolio of bonds that includes Treasurys, mortgage-backed securities and state and local government debt. Each month, the Fed receives billions in principal payments from its various holdings, and much of that repayment is then reinvested in more bonds and other securities. Now, the Federal Open Market Committee -- which is part of the Federal Reserve -- said it intends to gradually reduce the Fed’s securities holdings by decreasing its reinvestment of its monthly principal payments it receives.

The Week in Public Finance: What the Rate Hike Means, a Legal Win for Online Sales Taxes and More

A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.
BY  DECEMBER 16, 2016

Movin' On Up

The Federal Reserve announced a short-term interest rate hike on Wednesday, the first one in a year and a move that was largely expected. But what wasn’t on the radar was the Fed's announcement that it plans to raise rates three more times in 2017, up from previous expectations of two rate hikes.

Given the reticence to move rates for most of the last decade, the faster pace for next year has municipal analyst Chris Mauro calling the decision a “rather splashy hawkish surprise.”

The rate hike will move the target interest rate on short-term debt up one-quarter of a percent -- to a range of 0.5 to 0.75 percent. The Fed's previous rate hike was a year ago, and that was the first one in nine years.

The Takeaway: The Fed's plan to raise rates signals that economic growth is accelerating.

Facing 652% Interest Rates, South Dakota Voters Regulate Payday Lending

They joined the growing number of states that regulate the industry that critics say traps poor people in a cycle of debt.
BY  NOVEMBER 9, 2016

In South Dakota, where payday loan interest rates average a whopping 652 percent and are among the highest in the nation, voters have struck back by approving a 36 percent rate cap.

With more than half of precincts reporting Tuesday night, results showed voters approved the move to regulate the industry by a margin of three to one. More than a dozen other states have enacted a similar cap on loan interest rates.

Critics of the payday industry say lenders prey upon low-income borrowers who are unable to access financing from mainstream banks. These borrowers, they claim, easily get trapped in a cycle of debt. Payday lenders, however, argue that they fill a critical hole in the economy by allowing people with poor credit to get emergency loans.

The push for the rate cap was led by South Dakotans for Responsible Lending, which also fended off a rival measure placed on the ballot more recently and backed by the payday lending industry. That measure proposed an 18 percent cap -- unless the borrower agreed to a higher rate. Opponents said the measure was intentionally misleading and would have essentially legalized sky-high interest rates for payday borrowers in South Dakota.