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The Fed has missed its moment, doesn't know what to do, experts say

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday opted not to raise interest rates, and according to several experts, the central bank missed its moment to do so long ago.

Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former advisor to the Dallas Fed, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" there have been many, many opportunities to hike rates. Now its labor markets conditions index, which gauges the health of the job market, has been negative six months running, she said.

"[Chair Janet Yellen] doesn't know what to do. They don't know what to do," Booth said.

"They're scared stiff right now," she added, noting oil prices and the possibility of inverting the yield curve are probably concerns.

David Kelly, chief global strategist for JPMorgan Funds, agrees the Fed should have hiked rates a long time ago.

"They've never found the perfect moment, but you never get perfection in life. I think they've made a big mistake by not moving sooner," he told "Power Lunch."

Janet Yellen
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Janet Yellen

The Federal Open Market Committee made its first and only rate hike in December. When announcing Wednesday that it would keep its overnight interest rate target in the 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent range, the Fed noted the labor market has "strengthened" and said other indicators were pointing to growth.

"Near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished," the statement said.

Kelly believes the Fed is trying to get expectations of a September rate hike off the ground since the data could get better, and the central bank doesn't want to surprise the market.

"They are clearly trying to send a signal that really, 'Our worst fears have not been realized and there's very little wrong with this economy here, so we may actually move in September,'" he said. "They want to leave that open, but they've wimped out so many times nobody is going to believe them."

Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management, also wants the Fed to get moving. He thinks a September hike is on the table.

"I think they've been afraid of their shadow," he said.

"We're talking about one-quarter to 50 basis points. I still think they're behind the curve."

Kelly said the real problem with the Fed staying near zero is a long-term one.

"We're setting the most important price in the world at completely the wrong level. And that is leading to a misallocation of resources all over the world. It will eventually lead to asset bubbles. They need to get moving," he warned.

— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.