The US Treasury just announced that is it lowering the fixed rate paid on Series I Savings Bonds to 0.0% for bonds purchased from Nov. 1, 2014, to April 30, 2015. It also announced that the new variable (inflation-adjusted) rate for I Bonds will be 1.48%, as I predicted back on Oct. 22.
This means I Bonds purchased through April 30, 2015 will carry a composite, annualized rate of 1.48% for six months.
The move to drop the fixed rate to 0.0% is a disappointment, because the fixed rate carries with an I Bond for its entire life, up to 30 years. The variable rate changes every six months for all I Bonds. But the Treasury did follow its typical pattern. With a 10-year TIPS yielding only 0.40% today (plus inflation), there wasn’t much justification in keeping the fixed rate above zero.
The fixed rate dropped to 0.0% in November 2010 and stayed there for three years, until November 2013, when the Treasury surprised everyone by raising the fixed rate to 0.2%. At the time, a 10-year TIPS was yielding 0.52%. That lasted six months, and the rate dipped to 0.1% in April 2014, and now to zero in November 2014.
Prediction. I bought my full allocation of I Bonds ($10,000 per person through TreasuryDirect) back in February, so I locked in that 0.2% fixed rate. I suspect most potential buyers have already purchased their 2014 allocation, so the Treasury won’t be selling a lot of I Bonds through Dec. 31, 2014.
In January, when the 2015 allocation limit reopens purchases, there won’t be any reason to buy, and smart investors will wait until later in 2015 to see if the fixed rate rises again. It will be reset on May 1 and Nov. 2, 2105. So the Treasury won’t be selling a lot of I Bonds in the first quarter of 2015, either.
EE Bonds. The Treasury also gave a little slap to holders of Series EE Savings Bonds purchased after May 2005, which were paying 0.5% interest annually with a guarantee to double the principal balance in 20 years. So if you hold these for 20 years, you get 3.5%. The Treasury today dropped the annual interest rate for all EE Bonds to 0.1%, but the 20-year guarantee still holds.