Weaker economy? That won't stop the Fed: Economist

The Federal Reserve should coddle the U.S. economy, but central bankers appear poised for more monetary tightening regardless of the lack of realized improvement, Lindsey Piegza said Thursday.

A month after boosting interest rates for the first time in a decade, the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday held rates steady but gave no indication it would change course.

The Fed's so-called dot plot indicated in December that Fed officials anticipate raising rates four times this year.

"Even if we don't see market improvement in the U.S. fundamentals, or it continues to decline in fundamentals for that matter, it's very likely that the committee will not be dissuaded from continuing along with subsequent rate increases just about every other meeting," Piegza told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

"The market should be gearing up for a second rate hike, potentially as early March," she added.

Piegza made her comments after government data showed new orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods tumbled in December.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders declined 5.1 percent last month, after slipping 0.5 percent in November.

More disappointing than the headline number was the fact that capital goods orders, excluding aircraft and defense, were down nearly 7 percent over the last three months on an annualized basis.

That metric is used as a proxy for business investment. The decline indicates that businesses pulled back spending more than previously anticipated amid a "perfect storm" of U.S. dollar strength, tepid global demand and a "sizable" inventory overhang, Piegza said.

Neil Dwane, Allianz Global Investors global strategist, told "Squawk on the Street" on Thursday the Fed could be forced to raise rates if crude oil prices rally. Rising energy costs could cause the consumer price index to hit the top end of projections, he said. The Fed's inflation target is 2 percent.

In its statement Wednesday, the Fed described the impact of oil price declines on overall inflation as transitory.

Crude futures have risen in four of the last five sessions and were up again Thursday on hopes that top oil producer Russia will cooperate with OPEC to cut production in order to prop up prices.

Dwane said he also believes the Fed would prefer to finish raising rates before the November presidential election.

"The timing of when the Fed moves might be more in the first half, and equities will have to navigate that volatility and potentially a stronger dollar before we get to the election," he said.

—Reuters contributed to this report.