Previewing the Fed

The Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday and there's one thing we know for sure: it's going to raise rates by another 25 basis points, lifting the federal funds rate to a range from 2.00 to 2.25%.

Why are we so confident? Two reasons. First, the market in federal funds futures is putting the odds of a September rate hike at 99%. For the Fed to let those odds get so high without pushing back forcefully with speeches and leaks to friendly reporters means the Fed is fully on board.

Second, and much more important, it's the right thing to do. Nominal GDP – real GDP growth plus inflation – is up 5.4% in the past year and up at a 4.6% annual rate in the past two years. An economy growing at that pace calls for higher short-term rates.

But the meeting is not only about changing the level of short-term rates; it's also about signaling the path of future rate hikes as well as the continued reduction in the size of the Fed's balance sheet, which became bloated during and after the financial crisis a decade ago.

Back in June, the last time the Fed issued economic projections, it forecast that real GDP would be up 2.8% this year and 2.4% next year. But, given the momentum in the economy, we think the Fed may lift these forecasts. It may also want to reconsider its projections for inflation now that its favorite measure of inflation – the PCE deflator – is already up 2.3% from a year ago