Three ways to profit from falling rates

By Carolyn Bigda, Beth Braverman and Ismat Sarah Mangla


(Money Magazine) -- 1. A weaker euro

The lowdown: The currency has fallen from a recent high of $1.51 in November to $1.29, a discount of nearly 15%. Analysts expect it to stay weak over the next three to six months.

The strategy: Trips across the pond are cheaper. Can stateside shoppers save too? Not with big European labels, which aim to keep prices equal worldwide. But direct importers may pass on the savings. Come this fall, for example, as new stock shows up in wine shops, some European wines may be better values than they were last winter.

2. Fire-sale mortgages

The lowdown: The sluggish recovery has kept mortgage rates low longer than expected. Sub-5% rates are great news if you have a 6%-plus mortgage (and still have equity). "It's unlikely you're going to see lower rates in your lifetime," says Keith Gumbinger of HSH Associates.

The strategy: If you're several years into your mortgage, ask about a 20-year fixed-rate loan. Rates are just barely lower than what you'll pay for 30 years, but you'll save in total interest over the life of your loan by not resetting the clock. Don't dally: Rates tend to rise more quickly than they fall, and it could take at least 60 days to close a new loan.

3. Plummeting savings rates

The lowdown: At 0.03%, average money fund rates have barely budged from February's all-time low of 0.02%. Don't expect significant relief until the Fed raises rates, which experts predict could happen as soon as early 2011 -- or as late as 2012.

The strategy: A few bank savings accounts deliver better yields: Sallie Mae Bank's online high-yield account is paying 1.4%. On a $50,000 stash, that's an extra $685 a year. The tradeoff: With an online bank, it takes two or three days to get your money out. With a fund at your brokerage, you can at least move into the market fast.  To top of page

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