The 5,000-year history of interest rates shows just how historically low US rates are right now

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Stele of Naram-Sin, king of Akkad

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Stele of Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, c. 2250 BC.

The Federal Reserve continues to keep its benchmark interest rate target pegged to a range of 0.25% to 0.50%.

That's low.

Interestingly, rates aren't just low within the context of American history.

They also happen to be at the lowest levels in the last 5,000 years of civilization.

Citing a speech by Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane , Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Michael Hartnett and his team previously shared the following chart, which shows just how low today's rates are relative to other times in history:

screen shot 2015 09 18 at 10.12.09 am

BAML

Haldane's list of sources for this is pretty staggering ( you can look through them all here ).

So to make things a bit clearer, we put together an annotated list of key historical episodes and the corresponding interest rate of the time, using the data from " The Trader and his Shadow ."

Check them out below:

  • Mesopotamia, c 3000 BC: 20%
  • Babylon, Code of Hammurabi, 1772 BC: codified earlier Sumerian custom of 20%.
  • Persian conquest (King Cyrus takes Babylon), 539 BC: rates of 40+%.
  • Greece, Temple at Delos, c. 500 BC: 10%
  • Rome, Twelve Tables, 443 BC: 8.33%
  • Athens/Rome: circa the first two Punic Wars, 300-200 BC: 8%
  • Rome: 1 AD: 4%
  • Rome, under Diocletian, 300 AD: 15% (estimated)
  • Byzantine Empire, under Constantine, 325 AD: limit 12.5%
  • Byzantine Empire, Code of Justinian, 528 AD: limit 8%
  • Italian cities, c. 1150: 20%
  • Venice, 1430s: 20%
  • Venice, (Leonardo da Vinci paints "The Last Supper in Milan), 1490s: 6.25%
  • Holland, beginning of the Eighty Years' War, 1570s: 8.13%
  • England, 1700s: 9.92%
  • US, West Florida annexed by the US, 1810s: 7.64%
  • US, circa World War II, 1940s: 1.85%
  • US, Reagan administration, 1980s: 15.84%
  • US, Fed does not hike rates in September 2015: 0-0.25%
  • US, Fed does hike rates in December 2015: 0.25-0.5%
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