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By Jeremy Glaser and Jason Stipp | 02-20-2015 09:00 AM

Friday Five: Don't Fret Over Rate Hike Timing

The exact timing of a rate increase shouldn't have a huge impact for most long-term investors. Plus, perspective on Wal-Mart's wage hike, Berkshire's energy sale, and Priceline's lift-off this week.

Jason Stipp: I'm Jason Stipp for Morningstar and welcome to The Friday Five, Morningstar's take on five stories in the market this week.

Joining me with The Friday Five is Morningstar markets editor Jeremy Glaser.

Jeremy, thanks for being here.

Jeremy Glaser: You're welcome, Jason.

Stipp: Up first this week, we got Fed minutes that seem to indicate the Fed is willing to wait before it begins to raise rates. So, does this change the story?

Glaser: These minutes don't make a big impact on the way that people should think about the Fed's eventual increase in interest rates. The minutes from January showed that concerns about a rate increase hurting the economy seem to weigh a little bit larger than concerns about keeping rates too low for too long and maybe creating asset bubbles or the potential for inflation down the road. There still seems to be quite a bit of patience within the Fed to wait a little bit longer until those rates actually increase.

But at the same time, there was a significant discussion about how rate increases should be communicated, and how the Fed should make it clear that it still will be dependent on the economy for future increases after the first one. Given the length of that discussion, it seems likely that we still are going to see an increase sometime this year. The exact timing of that shouldn't have a huge impact for most long-term investors. Obviously, it will be a big event, but if it happens in the middle of the year, if it happens toward the end of the year, if it happens tomorrow, it shouldn't change your long-term investment plan.

Stipp: Wal-Mart surprised some this week by announcing it's boosting pay for its workers. What are the implications of that decision?

Glaser: This was an interesting one. Wal-Mart said they are going to, in some cases, significantly increase their employees' minimum wage well above the country's minimum wage in many of the states they operate in.

You could read this a few different ways. Maybe this is bowing to some political pressure that's been put on them to increase pay and change some of their working conditions. Maybe it's just part of wanting to get more productivity out of their workers; maybe by doing this, they will get a boost there. But a lot of this could be that we really are starting to see what a tighter labor market looks like, and that a lot of companies--Wal-Mart and others who have started talking about this--feel like they do need to pay a little bit more in order to attract some of the best talent. It could be a combination of all of these factors, but this will certainly be a significant change for the company.

This comes after they reported quarterly results, which looked pretty good. They had another quarter of same-store sales growth in the U.S., and that comes after a long time where they were struggling to see any growth in the United States. Their outlook was a little bit disappointing. A lot of that was because of the expenses that are going to be associated with some of the new training programs and with these new wage increases.

We will be watching to see if this the first step in a period of more wage growth than we have seen before because of a tight labor market, or if this is more of a one-off decision due to some other idiosyncratic factors.

Stipp: We got an update this week on Berkshire Hathaway's investment portfolio, and it included a sale in the energy sector. What's the takeaway?

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