Odds for a December interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve climbed to 78% today after the U.S. central bank held short-term rates steady at 0.25%-0.50% at its Wednesday meeting, but said that “the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has continued to strengthen.” The Fed also noted that the pace of price increases, AKA inflation, “has increased somewhat since earlier this year” and that market-based measures of inflation compensation “have moved up.” (The Fed would like inflation to climb to near 2% but it is watching carefully to make sure that price increases don’t take on momentum that would produce more inflation than that.) The 78% odds of a December increase are up from a 68% chance yesterday, according to Bloomberg.
The Fed hates to surprise the bond markets, so with the market putting a 78% chance on a December increase, I’d say that the course of least resistance is now an interest rate increase in December–unless some big piece of news disrupts the current path.
The first potentially disruptive news comes this Friday, November 4, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports the October jobs number. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are looking for the U.S. economy to have added 175,000 jobs in October. That would be a small but important increase from the 156,000 jobs added in September.
The next potentially disruptive news comes with the U.S. presidential and Congressional elections on November 8. I think the Fed is trying hard not to add anything to the already heated political environment and will be watching very carefully to see how the results, whatever they are, are received by a very polarized electorate.