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How the Fed’s rate hikes could affect your finances

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How the Fed’s rate hikes could affect your finances

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Reserve’s move Wednesday to raise its key rate by a half-point brought it to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level in 14 years.

The Fed’s latest increase — its seventh rate hike this year — will make it even costlier for consumers and businesses to borrow for homes, autos and other purchases. If, on the other hand, you have money to save, you’ll earn a bit more interest on it.

Wednesday’s rate hike, part of the Fed’s drive to curb high inflation, was smaller than its previous four straight three-quarter-point increases. The downshift reflects, in part, the easing of inflation and the cooling of the economy.

As interest rates increase, many economists say they fear that a recession remains inevitable — and with it, job losses that could cause hardship for households already badly hurt by inflation.

Here’s what to know:

WHAT’S PROMPTING THE RATE INCREASES?

The short answer: Inflation. Over the past year, consumer inflation in the United States has clocked in at 7.1% — the fifth straight monthly drop but still a painfully high level.

The Fed’s goal is to slow consumer spending, thereby reducing demand for homes, cars and other goods and services, eventually cooling the economy and lowering prices.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has acknowledged that aggressively raising interest rates would bring “some pain” for households but that doing so is necessary to crush high inflation.

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WHICH CONSUMERS ARE MOST AFFECTED?

Anyone borrowing money to make a large purchase, such as a home, car or large appliance, will take a hit, according to Scott Hoyt, an analyst with Moody’s Analytics.

“The new rate pretty dramatically increases your monthly payments and your cost,” he said. “It also affects consumers who have a lot of credit card debt — that will hit right away.”

That said, Hoyt noted that household debt payments, as a proportion of income, remain relatively low, though they have risen lately. So even as borrowing rates steadily rise, many households might not feel a much heavier debt burden immediately.

“I’m not sure interest rates are top of mind for most consumers right now,” Hoyt said. “They seem more worried about groceries and what’s going on at the gas pump. Rates can be something tricky for consumers to wrap their minds around.”

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT CREDIT CARD RATES?

Even before the Fed’s latest move, credit card borrowing rates had reached their highest level since 1996, according to Bankrate.com, and these will likely continue to rise.

And with prices still surging, there are signs that Americans are increasingly relying on credit cards to help maintain their spending. Total credit card balances have topped $900 billion, according to the Fed, a record high, though that amount isn’t adjusted for inflation.

John Leer, chief economist at Morning Consult, a survey research firm, said its polling suggests that more Americans are spending down the savings they accumulated during the pandemic and are using credit instead. Eventually, rising rates could make it harder for those households to pay off their debts.

Those who don’t qualify for low-rate credit cards because of weak credit scores are already paying significantly higher interest on their balances, and they’ll continue to.

As rates have risen, zero percent loans marketed as “Buy Now, Pay Later” have also become popular with consumers. But longer-term loans of more than four payments that these companies offer are subject to the same increased borrowing rates as credit cards.

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For people who have home equity lines of credit or other variable-interest debt, rates will increase by roughly the same amount as the Fed hike, usually within one or two billing cycles. That’s because those rates are based in part on banks’ prime rate, which follows the Fed’s.

HOW ARE SAVERS AFFECTED?

The rising returns on high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) have put them at levels not seen since 2009, which means that households may want to boost savings if possible. You can also now earn more on bonds and other fixed-income investments.

Though savings, CDs, and money market accounts don’t typically track the Fed’s changes, online banks and others that offer high-yield savings accounts can be exceptions. These institutions typically compete aggressively for depositors. (The catch: They sometimes require significantly high deposits.)

In general, banks tend to capitalize on a higher-rate environment to boost their profits by imposing higher rates on borrowers, without necessarily offering juicer rates to savers.

WILL THIS AFFECT HOME OWNERSHIP?

Last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year mortgage dipped to 6.33%. That means the rate on a typical home loan is still about twice as expensive as it was a year ago.

Mortgage rates don’t always move in tandem with the Fed’s benchmark rate. They instead tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.

Sales of existing homes have declined for nine straight months as borrowing costs have become too high a hurdle for many Americans who are already paying much more for food, gas and other necessities.

WILL IT BE EASIER TO FIND A HOUSE IF I’M STILL LOOKING TO BUY?

If you’re financially able to proceed with a home purchase, you’re likely to have more options than at any time in the past year.

WHAT IF I WANT TO BUY A CAR?

Since the Fed began increasing rates in March, the average new vehicle loan has jumped more than 2 percentage points, from 4.5% to 6.6% in November, according to the Edmunds.com auto site. Used vehicle loans are up 2.1 percentage points to 10.2%. Loan durations for new vehicles average just under 70 months, and they’ve passed 70 months for used vehicles.

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Most important, though, is the monthly payment, on which most people base their auto purchases. Edmunds says that since March, it’s up by an average of $61 to $718 for new vehicles. The average payment for used vehicles is up $22 per month to $565.

Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ director of insights, says financing the average new vehicle with a price of $47,000 now costs $8,436 in interest. That’s enough to chase many out of the auto market.

“I think we’re actually starting to see that these interest rates, they’re doing what the Fed wants,” Drury said. “They’re taking away the buying power so that you can’t buy a vehicle anymore. There’s going to be fewer people that can afford it.”

Any rate increase by the Fed will likely be passed through to auto borrowers, though it will be slightly offset by subsidized rates from manufacturers. Drury predicts that new-vehicle prices will start to ease next year as demand wanes a little.

HOW HAVE THE RATE HIKES INFLUENCED CRYPTO?

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have dropped in value since the Fed began raising rates. So have many previously high-valued technology stocks.

Higher rates mean that safe assets like Treasuries have become more attractive to investors because their yields have increased. That makes risky assets like technology stocks and cryptocurrencies less attractive.

Still, bitcoin continues to suffer from problems separate from economic policy. Three major crypto firms have failed, most recently the high-profile FTX exchange, shaking the confidence of crypto investors.

WHAT ABOUT MY JOB?

Some economists argue that layoffs could be necessary to slow rising prices. One argument is that a tight labor market fuels wage growth and higher inflation. But the nation’s employers kept hiring briskly in November.

“Job openings continue to exceed job hires, indicating employers are still struggling to fill vacancies,” said Odeta Kushi, an economist with First American.

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WILL THIS AFFECT STUDENT LOANS?

Borrowers who take out new private student loans should prepare to pay more as as rates increase. The current range for federal loans is between about 5% and 7.5%.

That said, payments on federal student loans are suspended with zero interest until summer 2023 as part of an emergency measure put in place early in the pandemic. President Joe Biden has also announced some loan forgiveness, of up to $10,000 for most borrowers, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients — a policy that’s now being challenged in the courts.

IS THERE A CHANCE THE RATE HIKES WILL BE REVERSED?

It looks increasingly unlikely that rates will come down anytime soon. On Wednesday, the Fed signaled that it will raise its rate as high as roughly 5.1% early next year — and keep it there for the rest of 2023.

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AP Business Writers Christopher Rugaber in Washington, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Damian Troise and Ken Sweet in New York contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press receives support from Charles Schwab Foundation for educational and explanatory reporting to improve financial literacy. The independent foundation is separate from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. The AP is solely responsible for its journalism.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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Boeing plane found to have missing panel after flight from California to southern Oregon

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Boeing plane found to have missing panel after flight from California to southern Oregon

By CLAIRE RUSH and LISA BAUMANN

 

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A post-flight inspection revealed a missing panel on an older Boeing 737-800 that had just arrived at its destination in southern Oregon on Friday after flying from San Francisco, officials said, the latest in a series of recent incidents involving aircraft manufactured by the company.

United Flight 433 left San Francisco at 10:20 a.m. and landed at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in Medford shortly before noon, according to FlightAware. The airport’s director, Amber Judd, said the plane landed safely without incident and the external panel was discovered missing during a post-flight inspection. No injuries were reported.

The airport paused operations to check the runway and airfield for debris, Judd said, and none was found.

Judd said she believed the United ground crew or pilots doing a routine inspection before the next flight were the ones who noticed the missing panel.

A United Airlines spokesperson said via email that the flight was carrying 139 passengers and six crew members, and no emergency was declared because there was no indication of the damage during the flight.

 

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The Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center is pictured in Medford, Ore., on Jan. 4, 2024. The first lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, brought amid reports that a nurse at the southern Oregon hospital replaced intravenous fentanyl drips with tap water seeks up to $11.5 million on behalf of the estate of a 65-year-old man who died. (Janet Eastman/The Oregonian/The Oregonian via AP)

 

“After the aircraft was parked at the gate, it was discovered to be missing an external panel,” the United spokesperson said. “We’ll conduct a thorough examination of the plane and perform all the needed repairs before it returns to service. We’ll also conduct an investigation to better understand how this damage occurred.”

The Federal Aviation Administration also said it would investigate.

The missing panel was on the underside of the aircraft where the wing meets the body and just next to the landing gear, United said.

The plane made its first flight in April 1998 and was delivered to Continental Airlines in December of that year, according to the FAA. United Airlines has operated it since Nov. 30, 2011. It is a 737-824, part of the 737-800 series that was a precursor to the Max.

Boeing said, also via email, that it would defer comment to United about the carrier’s fleet and operations.

In January a panel that plugged a space left for an extra emergency door blew off a Boeing Max 9 jet in midair just minutes after an Alaska Airlines flight took off from Portland, leaving a gaping hole and forcing pilots to make an emergency landing. There were no serious injuries.

The door plug was eventually found in the backyard of a high school physics teacher in southwest Portland, along with other debris from the flight scattered nearby. The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation.

On March 6, fumes detected in the cabin of a Boeing 737-800 Alaska Airlines flight destined for Phoenix caused pilots to head back to the Portland airport.

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The Port of Portland said passengers and crew noticed the fumes and the flight landed safely. Seven people including passengers and crew requested medical evaluations, but no one was hospitalized, officials said.

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Baumann reported from Bellingham, Washington.

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