Santoli: Fed puts stocks' delicate balance at risk

Pascal Guyot | AFP | Getty Images

It's not the waxing prospect of a Federal Reserve rate increase that has the stock market on edge Wednesday. Not directly, anyway.

After all, investors should be encouraged by the conditions that are prompting Fed officials to keep two, or even three, rate hikes in play for this year: The job market's tightening, wage growth is quickening, deflation fears are waning and global financial footing is more stable.

What really accounts for the fitfulness of equities in recent days is the way those gently revived rate-hike expectations sharpen the focus on the ticklish balance of factors that have allowed stocks to hang within a few percent of their all-time highs for months now.