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CME traders cut September Fed rate hike chance to 24 percent

Inside the mind of the Fed

The Fed rate hike derby keeps getting more and more intense.

A growing consensus of market experts—particularly economists and strategists—believes the Federal Reserve will increase rates in September for the first time since 2006. Traders in fed futures, though, tell a different story.

Probability for a move next month plunged to 24 percent Thursday as gauged by the CME's FedWatch barometer. That's off from 45 percent the day before and reflective of sentiment after the minutes of the Fed's July meeting hit the tape Wednesday. (Tweet This) Central bank officials appeared torn between hiking and staying put as they praised the strength of the job market but worried over persistently low inflation.

Read More Fed 'approaching' hike, not there yet: Minutes

October's chances for a hike plummeted from nearly 50 percent to 32 percent, while December went from about 73 percent to 59 percent.

Overnight indexed swap rates also argue against a rate rise, with traders assigning a 32 percent chance to such a move even after positive economic data Thursday.

But hold on: The consensus is far from settled. Multiple Wall Street experts continue to think the Fed will move in September, with some contending one factor is simply a desire to get it out of the way and stop the endless back-and-forth debate.

Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images

"The economy is improving, inflation isn't falling, the Fed wants to begin normalizing monetary conditions and the policy tools are all in place," David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. "It looks more and more like September will see the first move up (since) 2006."

Citigroup, meanwhile, professed to find a "smoking gun"—as it titled a research note—in the minutes that also led it to believe the Fed will go in September.

And Bank of America Merrill Lynch is sticking to its call—for not one but two rate hikes before year's end.

Read More Fed may have just gotten a red light for rate hike

"Markets stop panicking when central banks start panicking," Michael Hartnett, BofAML's chief investment strategist, said in a note to clients. "We think that is increasingly likely in September, thus arguing that risk takers should soon look to add risk, particularly on any further weakness."

Traders were in no mood to buy on weakness Thursday, though, with the dropping 1.2 percent in morning trading and turning negative for the year.