The U.S. Prime Rate is among the most important marketplace indicators in the world. Every customer should understand how the Prime Rate works, especially anyone interested in getting a new credit card, an auto loan, a student loan or a second mortgage.

Car loan or a specific type of second mortgage loan called a home equity line of credit (HELOC) then you should understand how the U.S. Prime Rate functions. On Wall Street and across the global banking community, the U.S. Prime Rate is understood as the interest rate at which banks lend cash for their most creditworthy business customers. Most American banks, credit unions and other lending institutions use the U.S. Prime Rate as an index or base speed for numerous loan products; a margin is added to the Prime Rate depending on just how risky the lending institution feels the loan is: the riskier the loan, the higher the margin. However, because the Prime Rate is an index and not a law, business owners and owners can sometimes find loan products that have an interest rate that’s below the U.S. Prime Rate.

The U.S. Prime Rate is determined by adding 300 basis points (3.00 percent points) into the federal funds target rate (also known as the fed funds target rate). So, if the fed funds target rate is 5.25 percent, subsequently the U.S. Prime speed will likely be 8.25 percent.

Short-term rate of interest, and it’s controlled by a group in the U.S. Federal Reserve program known as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The FOMC convenes a monetary policy meeting eight times annually to choose whether to raise, lower or make no alterations to the fed funds target rate. The FOMC may also hold an emergency meeting at any given time, if economic conditions warrant.

If the FOMC determines that the speed of inflation within the U.S. economy is too high, then the group is more inclined to increase the fed funds target rate, to bring inflation in check. Conversely, if the FOMC determines that numerous sectors of the U.S. economy are flagging in a considerable way, or if the market is decided to be in recession, then the group is more likely to reduce the fed funds target rate, to spur economic growth. If the U.S. economy is growing at a moderate pace and inflation is also rising at a moderate speed, then the FOMC is more inclined to make no changes to the fed funds target rate.

It’s essential for consumers and business owners to remain informed about what the FOMC is likely to perform with the fed funds target rate in the FOMC’s next financial policy meeting. If the U.S. economy is showing clear signs of contraction, then holding off on a fixed-rate loan might be a good idea, since in this kind of economic environment, short-term interest rates, such as the Prime Rate, may be on their way down. On the other hand, if the U.S. Market is growing at a strong fixed-rate loan sooner rather than later may be the more intelligent choice, because in such an economic environment, short-term rates of interest may be on their way up.