The bond market seems to have heard a dovish undercurrent in the Fed minutes, while stock traders seem to think they got the central bank's message right the first time.
Stocks rallied hard Wednesday after ADP data showed 241,000 private sector jobs were created in December, raising speculation the government employment report would pack a positive surprise Friday. Economists expect the economy added about 240,000 nonfarm payrolls in December.
The Fed minutes, released at 2 p.m. ET, got little reaction from the already buoyant stock market but did cause a slight steepening at the front end of the Treasury yield curve.
"Well, they didn't hear hawks," said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies.
"What they heard was a bunch of confused people, and I think that is dovish because it means they're indecisive and noncommittal, and they frankly don't know what they're going to do or when they're going to do it ... they can't get their hands around inflation prospects. Based on the economy, they can see raising rates on the radar screen but based on inflation and given they have a dual mandate that really muddles the picture."
The Fed did emphasize that it could raise rates even with low inflation and that it expects it to be transitory, along with low oil prices.