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Where do we stand in a higher interest rate environment?




By Michael O’Connor

You may have noticed that financial media have an unhealthy obsession with interest rates, but our fear of higher rates is justifiable for the most part.


Higher interest rates impact markets in several ways.

From a financial perspective, the future cash flows of a company are discounted by interest rates; therefore, higher interest rates mean a lower present value of future cash flows.

It’s simply ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ situation. Higher interest rates mean the money companies are forecasting they will make in the future is now worth less in today’s terms once higher interest rates/inflation have been considered.

From a relative value perspective, the equity risk premium is reduced. The equity risk premium is the extra returns over the risk-free rate that investors expect to receive given the higher risks they are taking by investing in the stock market versus the risk-free rate.

If we consider US Government Treasury bills as the risk-free rate, then as the interest rates being offered on these T-Bills increase, the hurdle rate equities need to beat to justify the additional risk being taken also increases.

The interest rate on one-year Treasuries just a year ago was 0.07%, so stocks were the obvious choice versus an asset that offered zero returns. But the 1-Year Treasury Rate has jumped 60x in under a year to over 4%.

In investing, everything is a relative choice, so as interest rates increase in risk-free assets, equities become less compelling versus their risk-free counterpart.

The questions become, why take on the extra risk of the stock market when I can get a guaranteed 4% from a risk-free asset?

This reduction in the equity risk premium can lead to an outflow from equities into more risk-averse fixed-income products. This reduction in demand for stocks can result in lower valuations over time.

From an economic perspective, higher interest rates will increase the cost of credit.

Higher interest rates make loans more expensive for both businesses and consumers. As a result, everyone ends up forgoing upcoming projects or spending more on interest payments.

This reduces the demand side of the economy by reducing the supply of money in circulation, leading to lower inflation (in theory) and weaker economic activity.

This slowdown in consumer spending will reduce business activity and negatively affect company earnings.

And as company earnings fall, so too do the prices people are willing to pay to invest in these companies.

So where do we stand now that we are in a higher interest rate environment?

Market Outlook

Inflation remains persistent, and as such, interest rates look set to increase further, creating less than favourable economic conditions.

But whether the economic outlook is good or bad is never the question we are trying to answer as investors.

The only question that matters is how much of this negative news is already priced into the market.

With the S&P 500 currently down 23% YTD, it appears that a mild recession has already been priced in.

The possibility of a deep recession is still very much on the table as inflation persists. Still, as data continues to soften, we see encouraging signs that inflation may have peaked.

You’ll never time the markets perfectly, and short-term risks remain, but the long-term expected returns of the stock market have improved dramatically in recent months.

I, for one, am long-term bullish on the stock market. These current prices make it an attractive time to build out my long-term positions.

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Benefit-In-Kind tax rules overturned for company cars

By John Healy of Healy Insurances Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has announced a temporary change for company-owned vehicles following a backlash from drivers whose Benefit-In-Kind (BIK) taxes increased substantially […]




By John Healy of Healy Insurances

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has announced a temporary change for company-owned vehicles following a backlash from drivers whose Benefit-In-Kind (BIK) taxes increased substantially in January.

While the move to a CO2 based Benefit-In-Kind system, which incentivises the use of Electric Vehicles and lower emission cars, a significant number of employees with vehicles in the typical emissions range experienced large increases in their income tax liabilities since the start of 2023.

To address the issue, the Finance Minister has introduced a relief of €10,000 to be applied to the Original Market Value (OMV) of cars in Category A-D in order to reduce the amount of Benefit-In-Kind payable (this is not applicable to cars in Category E).

In effect, this means that, for the purposes of calculating BIK liability, employers may reduce the OMV by €10,000. This treatment will also apply to all vans and electric vehicles. For electric vehicles, the OMV deduction of €10,000 will be in addition to the existing relief of €35,000 that is currently available for EVs, meaning that the total relief for 2023 will be €45,000.

The upper limit in the highest mileage band is amended by way of a 4,000km reduction, so that the highest mileage band is now entered into at 48,001km.

These temporary measures will be retrospectively applied from 1 January 2023 and will remain in place until 31 December 2023. It is proposed to introduce the measures at Committee Stage of the Finance Bill 2023.

From an insurance perspective, if a vehicle is owned by a company then the motor policy in place must be in the company name and have full business use cover known as Class 2 cover. It is customary that the policy is on an open driving basis, usually aged 25 to 70. The cost for a company owned car policy can be higher than privately owned vehicles.


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Reduce the stress of downsizing

By Ted Healy of DNG TED HEALY It is widely accepted that moving house is one of THE most stressful life events one will experience, but does it really need […]




By Ted Healy of DNG TED HEALY

It is widely accepted that moving house is one of THE most stressful life events one will experience, but does it really need to be?

Embrace the change and look forward to new beginnings.

One particular cohort of home movers are those downsizing from their larger family homes, perhaps to a more manageable property with little/less maintenance. Here we look at potential ways of reducing the stress involved when downsizing:

Start the process as early as possible. Putting it off will add to the stress and result in a rushed job that is maybe not thorough enough. You only want to bring items you LOVE, NEED, USE and have SPACE for to your new property. Use this time as an opportunity to declutter – be ruthless. This is a fantastic opportunity to put some organisation into your life. Perhaps declutter prior to placing your existing home on the market – it may well add value to your home.

Don’t underestimate how much of a reduction is required pre-move. If the new property you are moving to is 50% smaller, then a quick estimate is that 50% of items in your current home need to be rehoused elsewhere.

Have an exit plan for the items leaving your home. Where are your local charity shops, do they offer a collection service? Is a skip required? A carefully planned exit strategy will make the move a lot more seemless. Have detailed measurements of your new home so you know which larger furniture items will/will not fit in your new property.

Take your time and do not try to do multiple areas simultaneously. Perhaps take it room by room and set yourself realistic targets.

Most importantly don’t panic. Allow yourself sufficient time, have a well-planned system in place and do not be reluctant to ask for help. Involving family members and relatives in the move will make the whole process a lot easier.

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