If the Federal Reserve opts not to raise interest rates in December, it won't be over calendar or political concerns.
With arguments against an increase in the key funds rate dissipating, two of the remaining concerns are that Fed officials would be reticent to hike in December, when a move could have outsized effects due to low volume and liquidity, and that 2016 could present problems because it's a presidential election year. The latter argument goes that a body that is supposed to be independent but has been stacked with doves during the Obama administration would not want to do anything to upset the economy and jeopardize the election for Democrats.
History suggests neither actually has played much of a role in thinking among Federal Open Market Committee members.
In fact, the FOMC raised rates five times in Decembers (1965, 1968, 1980, 2004 and 2005) and numerous times during presidential years, including in the third quarter — the one immediately preceding the Election Day — six times, according to research from Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ. The election year hikes came in 1948, 1956, 1980, 1988 and two in 2004.
"Regarding likely actions, market prognosticators have been heard to proclaim in public or in the financial media that the Fed typically doesn't raise rates in December and won't play politics by hiking rates ahead of a presidential election," Stovall said in a note to clients Monday. "Well, history begs to differ."