NEW YORK (MainStreet)—RateWatch, a premier banking data and analytics service owned by TheStreet, Inc. (NASDAQ: TST) reported today that national averages for 6-month CD rates dipped incrementally this week from an annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.15% last week moving to 0.14% this week, while all other CD rates generally remained unchanged at record-low levels. Philadelphia-area banks on average showed no changes with a 1 month CD rate at a 0.06% APY this week and last week and a 5 year CD APY of 0.83% this week and last week.
Regionally, Boston, New Haven and Dallas witnessed drops in rates across many of the CD maturity dates offered. "CD rates were effectively unchanged from a week ago as banks showed little motivation to lift yields on cash savings amid uncertainty of when the Fed will start tapering its monetary stimulus," said Joe Deaux, TheStreet's Economist. "Economists and analysts are mixed on when they expect the central bank to scale back its monthly purchases in mortgage-backed securities and longer-term Treasuries, as some expect it as early as September and others anticipate action in late 2013."
The global political situation, though, may have some effect.
"Investors are retreating from the stock market due to the crisis in Syria on the stock market," said Eliezer Fich, associate professor of finance at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business in Philadelphia. "However, CD rates at ridiculously low levels will prompt many of those investors to get back into the stock market."
At the beginning of the summer, Fich was convinced that the Fed would start gradually reducing its monetary stimulus in early September. Yet the impending U.S. intervention in Syria is likely to delay any tapering by the Fed.
That would explain the flat CD rates in the Philadelphia area.
"Together with a war with Syria, an increase of CD rates along with a reduction of purchases of mortgage-backed securities and long-term Treasuries by the FED could have a devastating effect in the stock market," Fich said.
While Federal Reserve efforts can ultimately move rates, the more pressing issue for banks is the need for deposits to fund loans, said Russ Kashian, economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
"Given the relatively weak economic growth we have seen and the recent poor showing in Durable Spending," he said. "I would suggest banks are reluctant to attract more deposits that are not readily converted into loans and investments."
Plus, though the Fed has expressed interest in tapering soon, it might be experiencing a little bit of procrastination.
"Until the economy shows signs of strong economic growth, or inflation, the Federal Reserve's statements regarding gradual tapering is akin to my students who state they plan on gradually studying tomorrow, unless an unforeseen event happens in the meantime," Kashian said. "I will have faith in the fact, not the pledge. Banks may be reluctant to change their CD rates in anticipation of an event that is relatively uncertain."
Of course, it's the risk-averse who are most hurt by the stagnant rates.
"Conservative savers—i.e. retirees—suffer the most because they are being forced into higher risk assets if they want to generate a reasonable return," said Wesley Gray, assistant professor of finance at Drexel's Lebow College of Business. "Stuffing your money in a CD at roughly zero doesn't exactly turn people on."
--Written by Ross Kenneth Urken for MainStreet