IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


11th August, 2023 Economy

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Context: Recently the Federal Reserve announced a 0.25% increase in the target range for the federal funds rate, bringing it to 5.25-5.5%. This is the highest level since 2001 when the rate reached 6.5%. The Fed's move is intended to curb inflation in the USA, which has been running above the 2% goal for several months.


  • The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other in the overnight market. It is a crucial indicator of monetary policy and has a significant impact on the broader economy. By influencing the cost of borrowing for banks, the federal funds rate affects the interest rates that consumers and businesses pay on loans and credit.
  • The Federal Reserve (often referred to as the Fed) sets a target range for the federal funds rate. This range represents the desired level for the rate to maintain a balance between economic growth and controlling inflation. The Federal Reserve target range is currently 5.25% to 5.5%. The rate has been increasing steadily since March 2022, when it was only 0.05%, as the Fed tries to normalize monetary policy after the pandemic.
    • This rapid rise of more than 450 basis points in a year has raised worries about the impact on the global economy, especially on emerging markets and debt-laden sectors.
  • The Federal Reserve uses various tools, including open market operations, to influence the federal funds rate. By buying or selling Treasury securities in the open market, the Fed can increase or decrease the supply of reserves in the banking system, affecting the rate at which banks lend to each other. These operations help the Fed steer the federal funds rate within its target range.

Impact on the Global Economy

  • Uneven Economic Recovery: The global economic recovery following the pandemic has been uneven and uncertain. Many countries are grappling with high debt levels and sluggish growth prospects, leading to an uneven economic landscape.
  • Monetary Stimulus and Interest Rates: Major central banks responded to the global financial crisis by implementing unprecedented monetary stimulus measures, which led to near-zero interest rates. These low rates incentivized investors to seek higher yields, prompting them to borrow in currencies like the dollar and invest in emerging markets with comparatively higher interest rates.
  • Rapid Increase in External Debt: The strategy of borrowing in low-interest-rate currencies and investing in higher-yield markets led to a swift surge in external debt stocks in low and middle-income countries. By 2020, these external debt stocks had reached levels exceeding 200% of their GDP, reflecting the scale of borrowing that had taken place.
  • Dollar-Denominated Debt: Non-financial corporations in developing countries, particularly in emerging markets, accumulated substantial amounts of debt denominated in dollars. This dollar-denominated debt totalled approximately $5.14 trillion out of a global total of $13 trillion held by non-financial corporations outside the U.S.
  • Vulnerability to Rising Rates and Exchange Rates: As interest rates start to rise, the vulnerabilities of these debt-heavy economies increase. If the interest rates on their dollar-denominated debt rise, the cost of servicing this debt becomes higher, straining their financial health. Additionally, exchange rate fluctuations can compound the challenges for these countries.
  • Currency Risk and Financial Stability: Dollar-denominated debt in countries without appropriate currency risk hedging mechanisms can be highly vulnerable to exchange rate fluctuations. If local currencies depreciate against the dollar, the debt burden increases in local currency terms, potentially leading to financial distress.
  • Potential for Defaults and Bankruptcies: A sudden tightening of global financial conditions, which could be triggered by factors like a significant interest rate hike or disorderly exchange rate adjustments, may lead to a wave of defaults and bankruptcies. This situation could have severe implications for financial stability and economic activity in these countries.

In essence, the federal funds rate hike and the resulting impact on global interest rates have implications for countries with high external debt, particularly those holding dollar-denominated debt. The vulnerabilities stemming from rising interest rates and potential exchange rate fluctuations underscore the need for prudent financial management and strategies to mitigate risks in the face of global economic uncertainties.

Impact on Corporates

  • Interest Rate Impact on Corporates: The recent increase in interest rates in developed countries has far-reaching implications for businesses operating in emerging and developing economies. As rates rise, borrowing costs for these businesses can escalate, affecting their financial health and ability to invest and expand.
  • Accumulation of Non-Guaranteed Debt: Many corporations in these economies have amassed substantial amounts of private non-guaranteed debt. This type of debt exposes them to various risks, including currency fluctuations and challenges related to refinancing.
  • Currency and Refinancing Risks: Currency risk becomes pronounced when businesses hold significant amounts of debt denominated in foreign currencies, especially in a rising interest rate environment. Exchange rate fluctuations can lead to higher repayment obligations in local currency terms, potentially straining financial stability.
  • Foreign Investor Preferences: If foreign investors start shifting their preferences away from government bonds in developing countries, these countries may experience an increase in borrowing costs and exchange rates. This scenario could make the repayment of corporate debt more challenging due to elevated costs.
  • Debt Service Burden: The debt service burden for the poorest countries has reached its highest level since 2000, accounting for a significant portion of their export earnings. This financial strain limits their capacity to invest in other critical areas and development priorities.
  • Climate Goals and Resource Allocation: The burden of debt service can hinder efforts to achieve climate goals. Limited financial resources may be diverted from green investments and sustainability initiatives, impacting both environmental progress and economic growth.
  • Importance of Policy Measures: Policymakers need to closely monitor the debt dynamics within the corporate sector. Implementing measures to enhance the resilience and sustainability of businesses is vital to ensure they can navigate challenges posed by rising interest rates and external financial pressures.

Way Forward

  • Reform of the International Financial System: Urgent reforms are needed within the international financial system to address existing imbalances that affect various countries. This could involve reshaping the framework to ensure more equitable outcomes for all participating nations.
  • Consideration of Global Impact: The U.S. Federal Reserve, being a major player in global finance, needs to consider the broader international impact of its decisions. Acknowledging and addressing the consequences of its policy choices on the global economy could contribute to more stable and balanced conditions.
  • Increased Attention and Cooperation: Given the challenges stemming from a fragile global economy, exacerbated by issues like healthcare and education system degradation, climate change, and extreme weather events, greater attention and cooperation are required from influential nations such as the U.S. and other major stakeholders.
  • Enhanced Financing Mechanisms for Developing Countries: Developing countries facing debt challenges and striving to meet their developmental needs require accessible and affordable financing mechanisms. Both short-term emergencies and long-term investments demand attention, and innovative solutions are required to address these financial gaps.
  • Collective Effort and Stakeholder Engagement: Resolving these issues necessitates collaboration among various stakeholders, including multilateral institutions, bilateral donors, private creditors, and civil society. A collective effort is crucial to developing comprehensive solutions that address the diverse needs of nations across different economic stages.

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US FED RATE HIKE: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/us-fed-rate-hike-46


Q. What are the implications of the U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike on India's economy, and what are the specific challenges that India may encounter in response to such a scenario? What strategies or measures could India adopt to effectively address and mitigate the potential challenges that might arise from a Federal Reserve rate hike?