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Rate hikes: The US (and Brazil) versus the world

As the Federal Reserve's policy meeting comes to an end on Wednesday, there is growing talk that it could lift interest rates in September – as most of the world continues on a path of slashing borrowing costs.

Some 92 percent of participants in CNBC's Fed Survey expect the central bank to begin hiking rates this year, and its statement – due to be released at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday – will be closely eyed for clues as to the timing.

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It comes in month which has seen India, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia all cut rates, however, in an effort to give their economies a helping hand.

In fact, some 25 countries from Canada to Thailand and Romania have eased monetary policy this year, highlighting a difference with the U.S., which is getting closer to its first rate hike in nine years amid signs of recovery in the world's biggest economy.

"Months before the Fed is expected to hike rates, the divergences in monetary policy are plain for all to see," Nicholas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy, told CNBC.

"Indeed these divergences even extend to countries suffering from the same problems: a lack of growth and high inflation rates. Russia is cutting rates aggressively while Brazil continues to raise them."

Jewel Samad| AFP | Getty Images

Brazil, the largest economy in South America, in early June lifted its benchmark Selic rate by 50 basis points to 13.75 percent -- its highest level since January 2009.

Of course, monetary tightening in Brazil and the U.S. have very different backdrops. In Brazil, policymakers hope rate hikes will help curb inflation, which is running at an 11-year high. While for the U.S., it's a case of lifting rates from ultra-low levels near zero put in place at the height of the global financial crisis.

Still, this divergence between U.S. monetary policy and most of the global economy is rare, economists say.

"In the past monetary policy cycles were much better synchronized, so this is really a challenge that we are facing -- it's partly explained by the fact that the U.S. sorted out its problems a lot quicker," Reinhard Cluse, chief European economist at UBS, told CNBC.

Who's next?

And the divergence is something that is expected to continue in the months ahead as world economies navigate the tricky path of lower commodity prices and a slowing Chinese economy; not to mention any potential fall-out from U.S. monetary tightening or the crisis in Greece.

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Central Banks in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Australia have all left the door open to further monetary easing.

Minutes released on Tuesday from the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) last meeting showed it was willing to consider further cuts if needed. The RBA has cut rates twice already this year.

"While the RBA remark in (the) … minutes that recent Chinese economic data have shown signs of improvement, risk of slower growth in Australian's main export partner coupled with the slow pace of economic recovery in Japan and the threat of a Fed rate hike all suggest that economic clouds could be gathering," Jane Foley, a senior currency strategist at Rabobank, said in a note on Tuesday.

"We see risk that the RBA may cut interest rates up to twice more this year."

China, the world's second-biggest economy, in May cut rates for the third time in six months and is tipped to lower rates again in the face of a slowing economy.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB), which embarked on quantitative easing (QE) earlier this year, has said that program will remain in place for some time to support growth in the euro area.

"According to current guidance, QE won't end till September 2016, and could run longer. By that time the Fed will be well into its rate hiking cycle," said Cluse at UBS.

"So it's likely that the monetary policy divergence will last for the next few years, certainly between the Fed and the ECB."