If American presidential history is any guide, interest rates in the U.S. will likely start rising soon.
Specifically, the federal funds rate has increased within one year of the presidential election for nine of the past 15 elections. And rates have increased within 18 months for 10 of the past 15 elections (see chart, below).
So we can expect rates to go up over the next year and a half following the election on Nov. 8, if history is a reliable indicator.
However, just now it might not be. Three of the five elections that weren't followed by rate increases in the past 60 years were within the past 16 years (three of the four past elections).
That is because of the historically anomalous period of quantitative easing since the end of the global economic crisis, and raising rates is, in economic-stimulus terms, the opposite of pumping trillions of dollars into the economy.
The type of rate that we are talking about is the fed funds rate, which is the rate that the Federal Reserve charges to lend money to other U.S. banks. The rate was last raised in December and is set at 0.25% to 0.5%. Before that, the last time it increased was in 2006, before the global economic crisis.
The Fed indicated that the rate would likely rise four times this year. But it hasn't raised rates once since December. The Fed met a few weeks ago and decided to leave rates unchanged.
The next time that the Fed meets will be Nov. 1 and 2. But many market analysts predict that the Fed will increase rates in December, not November.
Based on futures contracts, the probability of a rate hike in December is about 50% (see chart below).
The Fed, as the central bank for the biggest economy in the world, sets the tone for central banks all over the world. Along with the U.S., many economies have experienced long periods of low rates in recent years.
Some countries even have negative interest rates. So it makes sense that other central banks will want to follow the lead of the Fed.
The dollar is closely tied to the rates set by the Fed. If rates in the U.S. increase, the value of the dollar also tends to rise relative to other currencies.
This is because higher rates in the U.S. mean that investors who own dollars can earn more interest on their money, making the dollar more attractive.
A stronger dollar makes imports and commodities more expensive for countries that don't use the dollar such as most of Asia. These higher prices can hurt economic growth.
Stock markets in the U.S. and the rest of the world have in recent months dropped sharply at any mention of a rate increase. Investors have been concerned with the reduced attractiveness of stocks relative to bonds because bonds would offer improved rates, as well as the impact of higher rates on economic growth.
The last thing that the Democratic party wants is a sudden drop in stock markets immediately before the U.S. presidential elections in early November.
Like most central banks, on the surface, the Fed is supposedly free from politics. Rate decisions are supposed to be free from political pressure.
Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen was quoted in The Wall Street Journal last week as saying, "I can say, emphatically, that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions about the appropriate stance of monetary policy. We are trying to decide what the best policy is to foster price stability and maximum employment and to manage the variety of risks that we see as affecting the outlook."
But Fed governors are appointed by politicians. Naturally, they would like to keep their good, well-paying jobs.
So in reality, it is almost impossible to be totally impartial toward politics when politicians are involved. As a result, it is very unlikely that rates will rise at the Fed's next meeting in early November.
In the end, rates need to rise eventually.
The global economy is becoming addicted to cheap money. Although these adrenaline shots are keeping the global economy growing, it is questionable how much longer that tactic will continue to work.
Kim Iskyan is the founder of Truewealth Publishing, an independent investment research company based in Singapore.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the investments mentioned.