U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the last few months of 2015, and that means the next Federal Reserve interest rate hike will be on hold for a lot longer, according to one expert. Fourth-quarter GDP edged up just 0.7%, slowing considerably from the 2% growth rate in the third quarter.
"I think consumers continue to be retrenching," said Craig Bishop, lead strategist for U.S. fixed income at RBC Wealth Management. He pointed out that savings rates also rose in the quarter.
In its statement following this week's policy meeting, the Fed indicated it was paying close attention to the slowdown in the economy. Bishop doesn't expect another move by the Fed until at least the summer, and possibly later.
The economic slowdown also has implications for fixed-income investors who have been plowing money into the bond market all this month, sending yields lower even as the Fed has tried to normalize policy and lift interest rates.
"We've seen just in our own fixed-income activity over the course of this last month a real pickup in interest or demand for fixed income," said Bishop. "I think people are just getting tired of all the volatility in the equity market, looking for safe havens."
Bishop doesn't see that trend changing anytime soon. He expects the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury to hover at or below 2%, potentially dropping to 1.75% or the 2012 low of 1.40%. He said yields won't rise above 2.5% this year.
International events are also working to keep U.S. rates low, including the Bank of Japan's surprise decision to move to negative interest rates following its first meeting of the year. Bishop also believes the BOJ's move will also likely keep the Bank of England from raising rates this year.