Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Did Main Street Expect the Rate Hike?

Over a year ago, I looked at data from the Michigan Survey of Consumers to see whether most households were expecting interest rates to rise. I saw that, as of May 2014, about 63% of consumers expected interest rates to rise within the year (i.e. by May 2015). This was considerably higher than the approximately 40% of consumers who expected rates to rise within the year in 2012.

Of course, the Federal Reserve did not end up raising rates until December 2015. Did a greater fraction of consumers anticipate a rise in rates leading up to the hike? Based on the updated Michigan Survey data, it appears not. As Figure 1 below shows, the share of consumers expecting higher rates actually dropped slightly, to just above half, in late 2014 and early 2015. By the most recent available survey date, November 2015, 61% expected rates to rise within the year.

Figure 1: Data from Michigan Survey of Consumers. Analysis by Binder.
Figure 2 zooms in on just the last three years. You can see that there does not appear to be any real resolution in uncertainty leading up to the rate hike. Consistently between half and two thirds of consumers have expected rates to rise within the year every month since late 2013.

Figure 2: Data from Michigan Survey of Consumers. Analysis by Binder.


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