While Wall Street talks up the near certainty of a December interest rate hike, the Federal Reserve has left itself some wiggle room for delay.
A summary from the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting in October contained the expected nod toward raising the key funds rate in December so long as conditions warrant.
But the minutes also showed a committee more divided, if in sentiment but not in actual voting, than it's been since Janet Yellen chaired her first meeting in March 2014. Traders took down the possibility of a December rate hike after the release of the minutes, from a 74 percent chance to 68 percent.
Members actively debated the wisdom both in moving too soon and waiting too long. They wondered about delivering the wrong message both at the October meeting and after future FOMC gatherings where, ostensibly, the committee will begin hiking rates at a measured pace. And they debated not only over what to do should things continue to improve, but also how to proceed should conditions worsen.
"In its post-meeting statement, rather than framing its near-term policy path in terms of how long to maintain the current target range, the Committee decided to indicate that, in determining whether it would be appropriate to raise the target range at its next meeting, it would assess both realized and expected progress toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation," the minutes said.