Over the past couple of months, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate cuts have dominated business and financial publications worldwide. Following a 50 basis point cut in September, October’s 25 basis point cut has raised expectations of more rates cuts to come. According to a recent article in the Financial Times, analysts predict that the Fed rate will drop to 3.5 percent over next year.
What does this mean for securing loans to expand your small business or buy another? What kind of financial product should you choose – a floating rate or fixed rate? How should you deal with prepayment penalties?
If you’re looking for long term funding (more than 10 years), secure a floating rate. Business lending is based on the prime rate, which directly correlates with the fed rate. With the economy expected to soften in 2008, prepare for a sluggish cash flow. A rate cut will give you the opportunity to convert to a fixed rate in next six to nine months when interest rates bottom out.
The majority of small business owners do not like floating products, because future cash flow becomes unpredictable. In spite of a short term higher sticker rate, it‘s an opportune time to utilize floating rate products and save money over the term of the loan.
There are instances when small business owners cannot fully avail this opportunity. For example, small business owners with SBA loans cannot refinance to a fixed rate for the next three years due to prepayment penalties. Still, the small and medium enterprises will benefit from lower interest rates because the floating rate (linked to prime) is expected to drop over the next year.
Interest rate trends beyond the next year to two years remain uncertain. The increasing shortage of commodities, especially oil, will increase cost-based inflation. This type of inflation is much more difficult for central banks to manage than demand-based inflation. The growing demand in emerging markets like India and China will also keep an upward pressure on inflation, restricting the central bank’s flexibility to lower interest rates. Rates may even rise.
But every cloud has a silver lining. The increasing demand in markets like India and China may open new markets for small businesses owners. The strategies for that impeding opportunity will be topic of my next blog… Until then, enjoy the lower cost of capital.