The Fed faces conditions that aren't exactly ideal as it heads into its potentially history-making rate decision later this week.
While there's never an ideal scenario for a rate hike, the conditions the U.S. central bank face are onerous. Declining oil prices are putting pressure on a number of fronts, not the least of which is a default scare in the junk bond market; corporate profits and manufacturing are at recessionary levels; and the economy is closing out another unspectacular year.
Moreover, things don't look any better on the international front.
The global war on terrorism is heating up, Europe's economy is struggling and the most of the Fed's global counterparts are taking the opposite approach, loosening rather than tightening monetary policy in an effort to promote growth.
Nevertheless, Wall Street is preparing for a quarter-point rate hike Wednesday that is seven years in the making.