What to watch

Final countdown arrives for Fed decision

- Adam Shell @adamshell USA TODAY

The most closely watched and arguably most analyzed Federal Reserve meeting since the dark days of the 2008 financial crisis kicks off today with the Fed’s too-close-to-call decision on interest rates. Investors that want to get mentally prepared should cue up a version of the band Europe’s ubiquitous and anthem-like song, The Final Countdown.

After weeks of debate and angst, and weeks of will they or won’t they talk, the Fed’s September meeting has arrived. The Janet Yellen-led Fed gathers Wednesday to kick off its two-day meeting and will get a final reading on inflation at the consumer level before going public with its rate decision Thursday at 2 p.m. ET. The Fed has been waiting for inflation to rise closer to 2%, a level it deems more healthy.

The Fed faces a touch decision. On the side of the ledger pointing to a rate hike for the first time since 2006 is an improving job market. On the other side of the ledger that says delay the hike is recent market turbulence and worries about China’s economy.

There’s a growing camp on Wall Street that says the market will greet a rate increase with a sigh of relief and that stocks will rally as the uncertaint­y of what the Fed will do fades. This camp is bolstered by the belief that even if the Fed does hike rates, it will stress that its rate hike cycle will be slow and deliberate. Other pundits say the Fed hasn’t prepared the market for a hike and stocks will dip sharply. How stocks react if the Fed doesn’t hike rates is also a question mark.

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