The rate is published by the New York Federal Reserve to serve as a rate upon which other debt transactions can be benchmarked. It was conceived after LIBOR, a previously used benchmark rate, suffered a price manipulation scandal in no small part due to its survey based data collection method. For those contemplating an ARM, the difference is not profound—but it may be noticeable. If you’re an optimist, you look at an increase in adjustable rate periods as simply additional opportunities to gauge market conditions and secure an improved interest rate.

  1. SOFR is becoming the benchmark rate for dollar-denominated derivatives and loans around the world, although other countries have created their own alternative rates, such as SONIA and EONIA.
  2. Rachel Witkowski is an award-winning journalist whose 20-year career spans a wide range of topics in finance, government regulation and congressional reporting.
  3. For instance, the United Kingdom chose the Sterling Overnight Index Average (SONIA), an overnight lending rate, as its benchmark for sterling-based contracts going forward.
  4. As an extension of the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), the SOFR Averages are compounded averages of the SOFR over rolling 30-, 90-, and 180-calendar day periods.
  5. USD LIBOR is frequently used as a cash rate in an index that has a cash investment or requires funding.
  6. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York publishes the SOFR benchmark every business day morning.

Exhibit 3 compares the cumulative returns of a cash investment using SOFR with overnight and three-month LIBOR. In annualized terms, a SOFR-based cash return was lower than those based on overnight and three-month LIBOR by 0.30% and 0.02%, respectively, over the past six and a half years. A second problem is that SOFR, without a bank credit premium, is not aligned with bank funding costs, and therefore opens up basis risk in banks’ asset liability management.

The SOFR is an influential interest rate banks use to price U.S. dollar-denominated derivatives and loans. The daily SOFR is based on transactions in the Treasury repurchase market, where investors offer banks overnight loans backed by their bond assets. While all interest rates reflect market conditions to one degree or the other, LIBOR is defined by the plus500 forex review interest rates large international banks (about 20 of them) would charge each other for making overnight loans. For purposes of the index, the highest and lowest rates are then removed and these rates are averaged together to create the daily LIBOR rate. In June 2023, the U.S. dollar London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) will likely be discontinued.

As you can see, there’s not a tremendous difference in the benchmark, so there will not be a huge impact on the fully indexed interest rate, regardless of discussions around “fallback clauses” and valuation differences. And while the above example is just one 30-day snapshot—the spread could certainly expand over time given a rise in the price of Treasury notes—these results should be seen as more or less typical for the current lending era. The story of SOFR is in many ways the story of necessity—the need for something better, in this case, the need for a superior benchmark to more accurately and reliably reflect market conditions and determine adjustable interest rates.

Due to the fact that influential housing market GSEs like Fannie Mae and Fredddie Mac are no longer accepting new ARMs based on the LIBOR index, talk of benchmarks is not at all academic; clearly, the transition to new interest rates has real-world implications. In fact, LIBOR will be completely phased out at the end of 2021 (for the vast majority of loans). For many years, despite its shortcomings, LIBOR was widely appreciated in banking circles for its forward-looking visibility into the markets, which allowed institutions to better manage cash flow.

Some background to the Federal Funds Rate

Additionally, Patel points out, Libor was unsecured—the loans it was based on didn’t use collateral—so it included a credit risk premium. SOFR is a secured rate, based on transactions that involve collateral, in the form of Treasuries, so there’s no credit risk premium baked into the rates. The move to the SOFR is expected to have the greatest impact on the derivatives market. However, it should also play an important role in consumer credit products—including some adjustable-rate mortgages and private student loans—as well as debt instruments such as commercial paper. For one, it was based largely on estimates from global banks that were surveyed—but not necessarily on actual transactions. Benchmark rates such as the SOFR are integral to the trading of derivatives—especially interest-rate swaps.

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Also, most U.S. lenders have been transitioning to SOFR since 2020, when the financial regulators warned them to move away from Libor before the June 30, 2023 deadline. Lenders use it to determine the base rate on loans to consumers and businesses, in addition to looking at the borrower’s credit profile and other loan factors. As a result, U.S. regulators told financial institutions that Libor use would end effective June 30, 2023. This is because LIBOR could be calculated in many different timeframes ranging from overnight to as long as 12 months.

SOFR is much less likely to be manipulated as the Treasury repo market is one of the most liquid markets in the world, which means there’s much more real transaction data to rely on, rather than self-reported hypothetical rates. “SOFR provides a robust and transparent method for determining a common benchmark rate based on observed, cleared transactions in the marketplace,” says Sam Weller, Senior Vice President and Director of Capital Markets at Bryn Mawr Trust. SOFR’s establishment, grounded in actual market transactions, marks a significant evolution in financial benchmarks. Its role in providing stability and transparency is growing, poised to become a foundational element in financial markets and shaping a more resilient and transparent financial future.

What Is the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR)?

Treasury securities, minimizes risk and differentiates SOFR from unsecured rates like LIBOR. SOFR’s calculation uses data from a broad spectrum of repo transactions, ensuring a comprehensive market representation. This variety in data sources contributes to SOFR’s stability and reliability, making it a crucial tool for financial decision-making and policy development. In 2017, the Federal Reserve (Fed) responded by assembling the Alternative Reference Rate Committee, composed of several large banks, to select an alternative reference rate for the United States.

Overnight financing rates, such as SOFR, are key indicators of short-term borrowing costs. Derived from real transactions, SOFR offers insights into market liquidity and financial stability, reflecting the current state of the lending and borrowing environment. Banks, lenders and other financial institutions have historically relied on one financial index or another to serve as a benchmark in helping to determine the interest rate for borrowing money and the cost of other more complex transactions. In the nonmortgage realm, these transactions might involve sophisticated financial instruments such as credit default swaps, derivatives, asset-backed securities and so on.

LIBOR scandal

However you look at, change is the foundation of an ARM—regardless of which benchmark is used. By employing SOFR as supposed to LIBOR, lenders are simply increasing the likelihood of change. As we’ve said many times, that change could result in rates that save you money, rates that increase your monthly payment or rates that are essentially a wash.

Unlike the manipulative LIBOR rate, SOFR is based on real transactions, with a daily trading volume ranging from 1.4 trillion to 2 trillion dollars. Whether lenders use LIBOR or SOFR or some other indexed rate as part of their ARM, it’s just one part of what constitutes the adjustable rate. While this is generally good news for the American consumer and the American homeowner, the numerical complexity of index rates can be a lot to break down. In this article, we hope to lend a little clarity to financial indices by explaining how SOFR is calculated and why it’s important to understand on a basic level as you shop around for an affordable home loan.

The Significance of SOFR and RRR Rates in the U.S. Financial System

The Alternative Reference Rates Committee has identified the Secured Overnight Funding Rate (SOFR) as the recommended alternative reference rate to replace USD LIBOR. Treasury repurchase agreements data, reflecting borrowing cost in overnight borrowing collateralized by U.S. In addition, banking regulations after the financial crisis meant that there was less interbank borrowing happening, prompting some officials to express concern that the limited volume of trading activity made the LIBOR even less reliable. Eventually, the British regulator that compiled LIBOR rates said it would no longer require banks to submit interbank lending information after 2021.


If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), for example, you should check your rate when it resets from fixed to adjustable; it may go up. SOFR is the US replacement for LIBOR, which was subject to unfair manipulation for several decades. Other regions around the world are also replacing LIBOR with their own rates, such as ESTR for Europe and SONIA for the UK. This week we’re going to review two different types of interest rates which are often misunderstood, namely the Federal Funds Rate (“FFR”) and the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”).

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