When interest rates hover near historic lows for extended periods of time, it becomes easy to forget that what goes down will eventually come back up. However, rates will generally begin to rise as an economy rebounds. When this happens, both short- and long-term fixed-income investors who are caught unprepared may miss out on an easy opportunity to increase their monthly incomes. Therefore, now is the time to begin preparing for this shift in the interest rate environment. This article explores some of the basic, time-tested strategies that any investor or trader can use to profit in a rising interest rate environment. (Check out How Interest Rates Affect The Stock Market for an introduction to this issue.)
Look to Stocks
Not all strategies that profit from rising rates pertain to fixed-income securities. Investors looking to cash in when rates should consider purchasing stocks of major consumers of raw materials. The price of raw materials often remains stable or declines when rates rise. The companies using these materials to produce a finished good - or simply in their day-to-day operations - will see a corresponding increase in their profit margins as their costs drop. For this reason, these companies are generally viewed as a hedge against inflation.

Rising interest rates are also good news for the real estate sector, so companies that profit from homebuilding and construction may be good plays as well. Poultry and beef producers may also see an increase in demand when rates rise, due to increased consumer spending and lower costs. (For more on inflation, take a look at How Interest Rate Cuts Affect Consumers.)

Get Your Ladder Ready
Of course, the most common strategy that financial planners and investment advisors recommend to clients is the bond ladder. A bond ladder is a series of bonds that mature at regular intervals, such as every three, six, nine or 12 months. As rates rise, each of these bonds is then reinvested at the new, higher rate. The same process works for CD laddering. The following example illustrates this process:

Larry has $300,000 in a money market earning less than 1% interest. His broker advises him that interest rates are probably going to start rising sometime in the next few months. He decides to move $250,000 of his money market portfolio into five separate $50,000 CDs that mature every 90 days starting in three months. Every 90 days, Larry reinvests the maturing CD into another CD paying a higher rate. He may invest each CD into another of the same maturity, or he may stagger the maturities according to his need for cash flow or liquidity. (Learn more about the bond ladder in The Basics Of The Bond Ladder.)

Beware of Inflation Hedges
Tangible assets like gold and other precious metals tend to do well when rates are low and inflation is high. Unfortunately, investments that hedge against inflation tend to perform poorly when interest rates begin to rise simply because rising rates curb inflation. The prices of other natural resources such as oil may also take a hit in a high-interest environment. This is bad news for those who invest directly in them. Investors should consider re-allocating at least a portion of their holdings in these instruments and investing in stocks of companies that consume them instead. (For more, see Are oil prices and interest rates correlated?)

Don't Forget the Dollar
Those who invest in foreign currencies may want to consider beefing up their holdings in good old Uncle Sam. When interest rates start to rise, the dollar usually gains momentum against other currencies because higher rates attracts foreign capital to investment instruments that are denominated in dollars, such as T-bills, notes and bonds.

Reduce Your Risk
Rising interest rates mean that more conservative instruments will begin paying higher rates as well. Furthermore, the prices of high-yield offerings (such as junk bonds) will tend to drop more sharply than those of government or municipal issues when rates increase. Therefore, the risks of high-yield instruments may eventually outweigh their superior yields when compared to low-risk alternatives.

Refinance Now
Just as it is wise to keep your fixed-income portfolio liquid, it is also prudent to lock in your mortgage at current rates before they rise. If you are eligible to refinance your house, this is probably the time to do so. Get your credit score in shape, pay off those small debts and visit your bank or loan officer. Locking in a mortgage at 5% and then reaping an average yield of 6.5% on your bond ladder is a low-risk path to sure profits. Locking in low rates on other long-term debt such as your car loan is also a good idea. (Before you run to the bank, check out 6 Questions To Ask Before You Refinance and Got A Good Mortgage Rate? Lock It Up!)

The Bottom Line
History dictates that interest rates will not stay low forever, but the speed at which rates rise and how far up they climb is difficult to predict. Those who pay no attention to interest rates can miss out on valuable opportunities to profit in a rising rate environment. There are several ways that investors can cash in on rising rates, such as buying stocks of companies that consume raw materials, laddering their CD or bond portfolios, strengthening their positions in the dollar and refinancing their homes. For more information on how to profit from rising interest rates, consult your financial advisor.

For related reading, take a look at Managing Interest Rate Risk.

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    These Will Be the World's Top Economies in 2020

    Discover the current economic forces that are anticipated to significantly shift the landscape of the world's most powerful economies over the next decade.
  2. Insurance

    What is a Force Majeure?

    A force majeure clause frees both parties in a contract from fulfilling their obligations in the event of some catastrophic or unexpected occurrence.
  3. Credit & Loans

    Explaining Equated Monthly Installments

    An equated monthly installment is a fixed payment a borrower makes to a lender on the same date of each month.
  4. Fundamental Analysis

    Emerging Markets: Analyzing Colombia's GDP

    With a backdrop of armed rebels and drug cartels, the journey for the Colombian economy has been anything but easy.
  5. Investing

    How to Win More by Losing Less in Today’s Markets

    The further you fall, the harder it is to climb back up. It’s a universal truth that is painfully apparent in the investing world.
  6. Economics

    Is the U.S. Economy Ready for Liftoff?

    The Fed continues to delay normalizing rates, citing inflation concerns and “global economic and financial developments” in explaining its rationale.
  7. Investing News

    Could a Rate Hike Send Stocks Higher?

    A rate hike would certainly alter the investment scene, but would it be for the better or worse?
  8. Professionals

    Will Interest Rates Rise at the Next Fed Meeting?

    Everyone wants to know what the Federal Reserve will do next, but the Fed doesn't even know what it's next move will be.
  9. Professionals

    How Retirees Should Prepare for a Rate Hike

    Janet Yellen has indicated that there will likely be a rate hike later this year. Here's how retirees should prepare.
  10. Economics

    Oil Is Cheaper Than Bread In Venezuela...The Country Is In Chaos

    Venezuela is floundering, and the story has more to do with just the falling price of oil.
  1. What are the best ways to sell an annuity?

    The best ways to sell an annuity are to locate buyers from insurance agents or companies that specialize in connecting buyers ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How can the federal reserve increase aggregate demand?

    The Federal Reserve can increase aggregate demand in indirect ways by lowering interest rates. Aggregate demand is a measure ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How does the stock market react to changes in the Federal Funds Rate?

    The stock market reacts to changes in the federal funds rate in various ways depending on where it is in the business cycle. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. When has the United States run its largest trade deficits?

    In macroeconomics, balance of trade is one of the leading economic metrics that determines the trading relationship of a ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does the bond market react to changes in the Federal Funds Rate?

    The bond market is highly sensitive to changes in the federal funds rate. When the Federal Reserve increases the federal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Which is more important to a nation's economy, the balance of trade or the balance ...

    There is no question the composition of a country's balance of payments is more important than its balance of trade. This ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  2. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  3. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  4. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  5. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  6. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!