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Does the old axiom “inch by inch, life’s a cinch, but yard by yard, life is hard” apply to the certificate of deposit market these days?

It would appear so, as CD rates have apparently stopped their steady decline, and are starting to level off and even creep back up, basis point by basis point. It’s a trend that bank investors hope will be a momentum-gathering march to significantly higher rates during the second half of 2010.

The good news is that March 2010 appears to be the low-water market for CD rates during the Great Recession. The BankingMyWay Weekly CD Rate Tracker averaged a decline each month dating back to the start of 2009. But April seems to be telling a different story, with rates slightly down for the first week of the month and leveling out (and even rising in some categories, like the six-month and the 60-month CD) for the second week of April.

Description         This Week      Last Week

60-Month CD            2.118%        2.117%

48-Month CD            1.809%        1.813%

24-Month CD            1.241%        1.243%

12-Month CD            0.783%        0.784%

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Six-Month CD            0.523%        0.521%

Three-Month CD        0.337%        0.338%

The good news, if you can call it that, is that interest rates are, by and large, on the rise this spring.

Mortgage rates are up to 5.29%, according to the BankingMyWay Weekly Mortgage Rate Tracker, after flirting for months below the 5% mark. Additionally, auto loan interest rates, as measured by the BankingMyWay National Auto Loan Tracker are up more than 6.6%. National auto loan rates averaged anywhere from around 3.25% to 4.75% as of late 2009 (according to figures from the Federal Reserve) making it significantly more pricey to buy a new car these days.

It would seem that private financial institutions aren’t waiting for the Federal Reserve to step up to the plate and raise interest rates, a move the Fed is loathe to make until it feels it absolutely has to. A recent Associated Press survey of leading economists concludes that a Fed rate hike won’t come until the last quarter of 2010 — at the earliest. That likely means that banks and lenders believe the economy is improving and can consequently get away with boosting rates on things like auto loans and credit cards. But as the economy improves, more and more investors will likely hop back into higher-paying stocks, leading banks to also lift CD rates to remain viable and competitive.

All in all, we seem to be turning a corner here on bank CD rates — a long, arching corner, but a corner nonetheless. Thus, rates should rise, but by the “inch by inch” and not the “yard by yard” measuring stick.

In the meantime, you can dig up the best CD bargains at the top deals in the market with the BankingMyWay CD Rate Search. It’s the most thorough review of bank CD rates in the market.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at