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Fed rate hikes in July or September are now a ‘crapshoot’: Strategist

Fed slows pace on rates

The Federal Reserve may not be ready to raise interest rates until the Christmas holidays roll around, Federated Chief Equity Strategist Phil Orlando said Thursday.

Orlando made his comments one day after the Federal Open Market Committee left rates unchanged and more members of the policymaking group indicated they anticipate just one hike this year rather than two.

Orlando said the decision merely reflected the reality of the marketplace. The Fed is staring down slower labor force improvement, weaker inflation, "terrible" first-quarter corporate earnings and a British vote on its European Union membership that now amounts to a coin flip, he said.

"We're not overly pessimistic. We're realistic that the data right now doesn't support an aggressive Fed," Orlando told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"We feel really good about December, but July or September is going to be a tougher call. The data's got to support that, and right now, that's a crapshoot," he said.

The odds of a July rate hike fellow to below 10 percent, and the chances of an increase in September dropped to 22 percent immediately following the Fed's announcement on Wednesday, according to Fed Fund futures data provided by RBS.

The uncertainty expressed by the Fed on Wednesday is bad for the market, said Alison Deans, consultant at AA Deans Advisors and a CNBC contributor.

"We're relying way too much on the Fed to solve all of our problems, and the Fed can't solve our problems," she told "Squawk Box."

What's missing is good fiscal policy from Washington, she said. Orlando agrees with that assessment.

He said in this environment, it's crucial to play defense. Federated's mix of stocks to bonds is at its lowest level since the Great Recession, he said.

"We've got more cash, more bonds. We like gold. We've got defensive allocations in equities. The stock market's going lower. You've got to play defense here, " he said.

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