×

Fed won't hike rates into volatile market: Economist

Markets need to calm down for the Federal Reserve to pull the trigger on the first interest rate hike in more than nine years, Bank of America Merrill Lynch's co-head of global economics research said Friday.

"If they met today, there's no way the Fed would hike interest rates. There's too much volatility in the markets and there's no rush here. It's not like inflation's running out of control and they have to manage that," Ethan Harris told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

To be sure, volatility has fallen off from last week, when the Vix hit a 52-week high 53.29. The index of volatility peaked at 33.82 this week—a level above 30 still indicates significant risk—and was trading at 25.6 at the end of Thursday's trading session.

Read More Strap in. Volatility could last the year: Strategist

The decision to start normalizing monetary policy at one of three remaining Federal Open Market Committee meetings this year is a tactical issue for the Fed, Harris said.

"It's not a question of whether they're going to go. The economy is very much on track. It's a question of whether you really want to hike into a stock market correction. I wouldn't do it," he said.

The FOMC meets Sept. 16-17. Central bankers have held their benchmark fed funds rate near zero since December 2008 in order to achieve their employment and inflation targets during a slow-but-steady recovery following the Great Recession.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that 173,000 nonfarm positions were added in August, below expectations for 220,000 new jobs. Despite the miss, the report contained some positive news. The unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent, and hourly wages ticked up by 8 cents.

Read MoreJob creation slips in August, unemployment rate falls

The Fed should also take into account very weak Chinese economic data and "very bad policy in China that's destabilized their stock market," Harris added.

As for the run-up in high-yield debt markets, he said the threat of tighter interest rates has taken the air out of junk bonds. "As they continue to hike, presumably those markets correct a bit further. I don't think the Fed's behind the curve."

—CNBC's Chris Hayes contributed to this story.

Morning Squawk: CNBC's before the bell news roundup

Sign up to get Morning Squawk each weekday

Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and service. Privacy Policy.
Please enter a valid email address