Transition to a High Interest Rate Environment: Preparing for Uncertainty

Link: https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/Files/Research/Projects/research-2015-rising-interest-rate.pdf

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Interest rates cycle over long periods of time. The journey tends to be unpredictable, full of
unexpected twists and turns. This project focuses on the impact of interest rate volatility on life
insurance products. As usual, it brought up more questions than it answered. It points out the
importance of stress testing for a specific block of business and the risk of relying on industry
rules of thumb. Understanding the nuances of models could make the difference between safe
navigation of a stressed environment and a default. Proactive and resilient practices should
increase the odds of success.


Hyman Minsky had it right—stability leads to instability. We live in an era where monetary
policies of central banks steer free markets in an effort to soften the business cycle. Rates have
been low for over 20 years in Japan, reshaping the global economy.

The primary goal of this paper is to explore rising interest rates, but that is not possible without
considering that some rates could stabilize at low levels or even decrease. Following this path,
the paper will look at implications of interest rate changes for the life insurance industry, current
stress testing practices, and how a risk manager can proactively prepare for an uncertain future.
A paper published in 2014 focused on why rates could stay low, and some aspects of this paper
are similar (e.g., description of insurance products). This paper also uses a sample model office
to help practitioners look at their own exposures. It includes typical interest-sensitive insurance
products and how they might perform across various scenarios, as well as a survey to establish
current practices for how insurers are testing interest rate risk currently.

Author(s): Max Rudolph, Randy Jorgensen, Karen Rudolph

Publication Date: July 2015

Publication Site: SOA Research Institute

Fed Rate Hike Odds Jump to Full Point After the Hot CPI Report

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/fed-rate-hike-odds-jump-to-full-point-after-the-hot-cpi-report

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Yesterday, the market penciled in a three-quarter point hike. Today, the market expectation is for a full point hike.

The WSJ notes that would be the largest hike since the Fed started directly using overnight interest rates to conduct monetary policy in the early 1990s.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 13 July 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk

Fed Hikes Rates 75 Basis Points; Powell Says 75 or 50 Likely in July

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/06/15/fed-hikes-rates-75-bps-intensifying-inflation-fight/

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The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 75 basis points — the biggest increase since 1994 — and Chair Jerome Powell said officials could move by that much again next month or make a smaller half-point increase to get inflation under control.

Slammed by critics for not anticipating the fastest price gains in four decades and then for being too slow to respond to them, Chairman Jerome Powell and colleagues on Wednesday intensified their effort to cool prices by lifting the target range for the federal funds rate to 1.5% to 1.75%.

“I do not expect moves of this size to be common,” he said at a press conference in Washington after the decision, referring to the larger increase. “Either a 50 basis point or a 75 basis-point increase seems most likely at our next meeting. We will, however, make our decisions meeting by meeting.”

Author(s): Craig Torres

Publication Date: 15 June 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

With higher rates, total 2022 issuance projections keep falling

Link: https://fixedincome.fidelity.com/ftgw/fi/FINewsArticle?id=202206101515SM______BNDBUYER_00000181-4ebf-d2a2-a9ab-dffffeab0000_110.1

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Market participants are revising their supply projections downward as rising interest rates have stymied refunding and taxable volumes and overall market volatility has held some issuers to the sidelines.

The pace of issuance so far in 2022 makes it less likely the market will hit previous records seen in 2020 and 2021.

BofA Securities was the latest shop to revise expectations downward because of the dearth of refundings, with strategists Yingchen Li and Ian Rogow forecasting total volume in 2022 to be $50 billion less than the $550 billion assumption they made at the end of 2021.

Author(s): Gabriel Rivera

Publication Date: 10 June 2022

Publication Site: Fidelity Fixed Income

Munis sit on sidelines while USTs rally post-Fed rate hike

Link: https://fixedincome.fidelity.com/ftgw/fi/FINewsArticle?id=202206151637SM______BNDBUYER_00000181-67cc-d98e-a5fb-efcf1bfc0001_110.1

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Municipals took a backseat as the Federal Open Market Committee announced its decision to implement a three-quarter point rate hike while U.S. Treasuries rallied into late afternoon following the news. Equities rallied.

The move, prompted partly by hotter-than-expected inflation data Friday, is the largest rate hike since 1994.

?Investors appear encouraged that the FOMC is willing to take forceful action to try and get inflation under control,” Wilmington Trust Chief Economist Luke Tilley said.

By front loading rate hikes, he said, the FOMC will have ?more optionality as the year unfolds,? and will be able to accelerate hikes if inflation persists, ?but if any cracks appear in the economic recovery they?ll have the option to slow down while still having rates below their estimate of neutral.?

Triple-A muni yields were cut a basis point or were little changed while UST yields fell up to 23 basis points on the short end.

Author(s): Christine Albano

Publication Date: 15 June 2022

Publication Site: Fidelity Fixed Income

To Fight Inflation, The Fed Declares War On Workers

Link: https://www.levernews.com/the-fed-declares-war-on-workers/

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New inflation data released Friday offered dismal news: Historic price increases aren’t showing any signs of abating, and in fact may be accelerating.

What can be done? Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has an idea: throw cold water on the hot labor market — perhaps the one bright spot in the current economy.

In fact, Powell recently screamed the quiet part out loud, making clear the largest central bank in the world is in fact an adversary to workers, when he declared that his goal is to “get wages down.”

At a May 4 press conference in which he announced a .5 percent interest rate hike, the largest since the year 2000, Powell said he thought higher interest rates would limit business’ hiring demand and lead to suppressed wages. As he put it, by reducing hiring demand, “that would give us a chance to get inflation down, get wages down, and then get inflation down without having to slow the economy and have a recession and have unemployment rise materially.”

Author(s): Julia Rock

Publication Date: 13 Jun 2022

Publication Site: The Lever

The private equity industry in the new interest rate environment

Link: https://voxeu.org/article/private-equity-industry-new-interest-rate-environment

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First, the illiquid and long-term nature of the private equity asset class, significant dispersion in returns across funds, as well as bilateral and relationship-driven fundraising, creates scarcity in access to individual funds, giving private equity funds the bargaining power when splitting the returns. As the industry’s growth deaccelerates, the pendulum of bargaining power will start to shift to limited partners, but more permanently than what we saw during the GFC. 

Second, we will see larger scrutiny of the cost structure and the industry’s value-add. Put simply, it is an expensive asset class, with the net returns to limited partners lacking consistency in beating public benchmarks (e.g. Harris et al. 2014).3 A central tension is large funds’ management fees, which typically run at 1.5% to 2% of committed capital already in the first five years of the fund life.4 This structure is lucrative for managers but underscores the disconnect between the private equity firm’s income stream and its fund performance, especially for large funds. 

Third, such pressures would make new and smaller funds particularly vulnerable. The proliferation of new funds, especially generalists’ funds, in the past decade was partly explained by the strength of capital flow and investment managers’ desire to capture a more significant share of fund economics. These funds have a higher embedded cost structure. Larger funds, therefore, have more room to compress the fees and have a higher ability to experiment in the investment space. All this gives larger-scale firms a better chance to withstand adverse pressures, resulting in market consolidation.

Author(s): Victoria Ivashina

Publication Date: 24 Feb 2022

Publication Site: VoxEU

New Inflation Rate High of 7.5% Could Affect Real Return on Investments

Link:https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/capital-markets-hotspot-New-Inflation-High-Feb-2022.pdf

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While U.S. insurance companies have adapted to investing in a world of low interest rates, they are now
also facing the challenge of investing in a high inflationary environment whereby yields may not be
providing adequate returns on investment on an inflation-adjusted basis. Using a similar approach to
estimating real interest rates in Chart 1, we estimate how corporate bond yields are holding up against
high inflation

….

Graph 3 shows similar data for BBB-rated corporate bonds. With BBB yields generally higher than A
yields, the difference between the two measures has been negative for a shorter period of time. Real
yields did not turn negative until May 2021, and they dipped to almost -1% in December 2021.

Author(s): Michele Wong and Jennifer Johnson

Publication Date: 15 Feb 2022

Publication Site: NAIC Capital Markets Bureau Hot Spot

The Fed Is ‘Normalizing.’ Here’s What Public Financiers Need to Know.

Link: https://www.governing.com/finance/the-fed-is-normalizing-heres-what-public-financiers-need-to-know

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Of the $8.3 trillion of liquid marketable securities in the Fed’s portfolio (see the chart below), 37 percent are overnight repos and Treasury securities maturing in one year or less, 26 percent are T-notes maturing in one to five years, and another 30 percent are mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which pay down principal and interest monthly. So all it takes to pull back the excessive monetary stimulus left over from the COVID-relief era is to let such holdings roll off in 2022-24 without replacing them with new purchases. Operationally, it’s really not rocket science — it’s just a matter of conviction and messaging. Unlike the rising stairstep expected in the Fed’s overnight rates, its bond portfolio runoff won’t make nightly news headlines; it’s like watching paint dry. In this regard, doing nothing is actually doing something quite constructive on the inflation front, despite the lack of fanfare.

What would be the impact on interest rates? Little doubt they must go higher, barring an exogenous shock like a global virus lockdown or a Ukraine-war flight-to-safety. The key question is really how much higher, and how fast. My best guess is that markets have recently discounted about one-third of the potential move higher in long-term rates.

Author(s): Girard Miller

Publication Date: 15 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Governing

Developing Countries Brace for Impact From Fed Rate Increases

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/developing-countries-brace-for-impact-from-fed-rate-increases-11644321780

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Central bankers in developing countries have been ratcheting up interest rates for months, seeking to stay ahead of a rise in U.S. rates that could destabilize their economies by pushing up their own cost of debt, weakening their currencies and driving capital out of their markets and into higher-yielding U.S. securities.

Now, the Fed is expected to raise rates anywhere from four to seven times this year. If successful in taming inflation, the Fed could help central banks everywhere, because a turbocharged U.S. economy, huge government stimulus and a splurge by Americans on everything from toys and household appliances have snarled supply chains and driven inflation higher world-wide.

Until now, overseas central banks have found it difficult to get on top of the inflation surge withthe Fed sitting on the sidelines. But with the Fed now poised to join the battle, some say the prospects of success are greater.

Author(s): Paul Hannon

Publication Date: 8 Feb 2022

Publication Site: WSJ