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Wall St now sees a Sept Fed rate hike: CNBC survey

Set. Down. Hike.

For the first time in the five-year history of the CNBC Fed Survey, a plurality of respondents forecast that the central bank will raise rates at the current meeting.

Despite harrowing market volatility and rising anxiety over global growth, 49 percent see the Fed hiking rates this month. Of the 51 economists, money managers and strategists who responded 43 percent say the first hike will come later, down 4 points from the August survey. The percent saying they are unsure rose to 8 percent from 5 percent.

Motorcyclist ride by the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, DC.
Chris Kleponis | AFP | Getty Images
Motorcyclist ride by the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, DC.

"It is time for the FOMC to start bringing monetary policy slowly out of its 'self-induced coma' in response to much improved vital signs for the U.S. economy," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist of PNC Financial Services Group.

In fact, respondents have rethought their forecasts from the nervous days of August and moved ahead their forecasts for nearly all monetary policy moves. They now forecast that the Fed will begin reducing its balance sheet in August 2016, compared to September in the prior survey. The Fed is forecast to finish hiking (or hit its "terminal rate") this cycle in the first quarter of 2018, six months earlier than the previous call.

"The 'data dependent' Fed has all it needs to hike rates," wrote Jim Bianco, president of Bianco Research. "If they do not, it is because of 'financial stability' concerns. If they do hike, they are announcing the stock market's volatility does not matter."

The market continues to call for a very modest set of increases, with the Funds rate ending 2015 at just 37 basis points and 2016 at 1.17 percent. The terminal rate is forecast to be only 2.7 percent.

Calls for a hike come with global growth worries remaining center stage. It was chosen by 45 percent of respondents as the No. 1 threat to the U.S. recovery, up from 29 percent in July. And the chance of a recession in the next 12 months, though it remains low, rose for the third straight month to 18.6 percent, a three-year high.

Most, however, sided with Constance Hunter, chief economist of KPMG LLP, who said, "The Fed should raise in September as the economy is strong enough to withstand a normal low-rate environment."

And most believe markets have more or less priced in the hike: 56 percent says it's priced into stocks, and 60 percent say it's priced into bonds, up from 43 percent in the prior survey.

Respondents did, however, sharply reduce their estimates for stock prices in response to the recent market swoon: The S&P is seen ending the year at 2,032, down from a previous estimate of 2,135. In 2016, the S&P is forecast to increase to just 2,159, down from an average estimate of 2,254.

And forecasts for a 10-year bond over 3 percent have now given way to a 2016 forecast of just 2.9 percent.

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