×

Fed to markets: Rate hike coming your way

Fed minutes reinforced what central bank officials have been saying over and over again: Interest rates are going up.

"I'm convinced they're going if the data remains strong enough," said Lindsey Group strategist Peter Boockvar. "They told us, and (Fed Chair Janet) Yellen told us, and they're mostly likely going and this should not dissuade anyone from thinking that."

Fed officials have been working hard to deliver the message that they would like to raise rates in December, if the economy is strong enough. The bond market has responded, particularly at the short end, and has been pricing in the idea of higher rates. That market held steady after the 2 p.m. EST release on Wednesday of Fed minutes, but stocks rallied.

"The bond market is saying 'The Fed just told me a December rate hike is a real potential.' It's data dependent and we're going to wait and see how things play out between now and then but they clearly have a bias to hike, all else being equal," said Ian Lyngen, CRT Capital senior Treasury strategist. "Which is the exact same thing all the Fed speakers have been saying for the past two weeks."

The policy sensitive two-year yield was at 0.87 percent in afternoon trading, about where it was before the release. The dollar moved slightly higher and then fluctuated, but the S&P 500 jumped about 15 points after the minutes. It closed 1.6 percent higher at 2,083.

"They put in December as a potential rate hike date, and they meant it. Dec. 16 is a very, very live date for action, and frankly, given the stellar 271,000 jobs report since the October meeting, we would be astounded if they don't raise rates finally," wrote Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi. "The winds of change have finally come to the Fed after all these years. Rates are going up. In 2015. Bet on it."

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists, however, said while the Fed kept the door open for a December rate hike, the FOMC was perhaps slightly more dovish than expected.

They pointed to the fact that "most" voters on the Federal Open Market Committee were not yet reasonably confident on the committee's inflation outlook. But they did note they still expect a December hike.

Read MoreStocks bounced as Fed appears to hold the course

In its minutes, the Fed said, "Most participants anticipated that, based on their assessment of the current economic situation and their outlook for economic activity, the labor market and inflation, these conditions could well be met by the time of the next meeting."

But it also added that the actual decision would depend on the implications in the economic data released between the October and December meetings. The Fed minutes noted that improvement in the labor market had slowed somewhat in recent months.

Steve Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Securities, said the Fed rate hike should not be problematic for the stock market, especially because of the slow path of rate increases promised by the central bank.

"At the end of the day we're talking about 25 basis points, 50 basis points. The Fed is not going to 2 percent for some period. My view is they want to get off zero, but I don't think they do much more than that," he said.

Massocca doesn't expect a big rally but the market could hang in. "There's just not a lot of alternatives for money. I know the Fed's going to raise rates but if you have investable dollars, where else do they go? " he said.

Read MoreFed left itself wiggle room

The bond market has been tilting more toward a December rate hike since the strong October nonfarm payrolls, which also showed a surprise pickup in wages.

"The Fed didn't have the nonfarm payrolls at this meeting, so the notion that a hawkish set of minutes was priced in resonates," said Lyngen. "It was definitely the most hawkish minutes that we've seen during this rate cycle."

Read MoreMost FOMC members see December rate hike as appropriate

John Canally, economist and market strategist at LPL Financial, said stocks may be responding to the idea that the Fed minutes repeated what the more than 30 recent central bank speakers have been saying. "It's almost like they got together in October and decided what they were going to say. It removes the uncertainty of when they're going to raise rates but it also moves the Fed back to the market, which is risk on," he said.

Canally said the market also takes comfort in the fact the the Fed emphasized it will raise rates very slowly.

Some stock traders pinned the post-Fed rally on short covering and the fact that the central bank wasn't really certain it would raise rates.

"I read it the other way. They've been talking through it. This reinforces what they've been saying. Unless there's a big freeze up in financial conditions, if there's not another large-scale terrorist attack or some exogenous hit that slows down growth, I don't think they wait," said Canally.

Lyngen noted that there were far fewer mentions of the dollar in the latest minutes than in the September meeting minutes. But even with less than half the mentions, the minutes did show the greenback is a factor the Fed is watching. The minutes also echoed recent comments of Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer that the strong dollar could continue to impact growth and inflation.