Federal Reserve

The Fed is starting to sound like the 1962 Mets, says Art Cashin

Cashin's market message
Santelli Exchange: Central bank policies gone wrong

These days the Federal Reserve is reminding Art Cashin of another squad that found itself swimming against the tide at one point in its storied history: the 1962 New York Mets.

It's hardly a flattering comparison. The Mets notoriously won just 40 games out of 160, setting a record for the worst season of any team in their inaugural year in the National League.

On Wednesday, Fed minutes showed that some voting Fed members expect an interest rate hike will be needed soon.

Cashin, who has long warned the Fed is losing control over interest rates, made his comment one day after New York Fed President William Dudley said it's "possible" the Federal Open Market Committee could raise rates at its September meeting. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart also said he wouldn't rule out a hike next month.

"The Federal Reserve is starting to sound like Casey Stengel's Mets," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," referring to the manager of the Mets in their lackluster inaugural year. "He famously said, 'Can't anybody here play this game?' And it's apparent in some cases the answer is no."

Indeed, investors seemed to put little stock in the Fed officials' pronouncements. The Dow, and Nasdaq were all lower on Wednesday after logging their worst session in two weeks on Tuesday, but traders said the pullback was largely due to investors taking profits following a run-up in U.S. stocks to new all-time highs.

New York Mets opening day at the Polo Grounds. Don Newcombe, former Dodger mound ace, greets four of his old buddies as the Mets open home schedule. From left: Gil Hodges, Clem Labine, Newcombe, Charlie Neal and Roger Craig.
Phil Greitzer | NY Daily News Archive | Getty Images

David Lebovitz, JPMorgan Asset Management global market strategist, said markets are currently too complacent about the chance of a rate hike, but September is still a long shot.

"I'm not sure that a September rate hike is as high a probability as people may be interpreting his comments to mean," he told "Squawk on the Street."

Further, inflation is "not terribly exciting," he added.

The Labor Department reported on Tuesday that the Consumer Price Index rose 0.8 percent in the year through July, down from a 1 percent increase in June. The Fed's preferred measure of inflation, core personal income expenditures, has held at 1.6 percent since March, below the Fed's target of 2 percent.

On Monday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams proposed the Fed target higher inflation or focus instead on nominal GDP. By targeting higher inflation, Williams wrote in a blog post, the Fed could also allow interest rates to drift higher, giving policymakers more room to cut rates when the economy needs support.

The problem with this plan is the Fed has lulled investors into believing rates would remain lower for longer, and the pivot could roil fixed income asset classes such as high-yield and emerging market debt that have run up as investors chase returns, said Jim Caron, a global fixed-income portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

"We're looking at big numbers here that could actually fall with a change in narrative from the Fed, and what's the fallout from that? That's what I'm concerned about, and that's one of the risks I see," he told "Squawk on the Street."

Caron also questioned whether markets would view the change as credible. The lack of market reaction to Dudley's remarks shows the Fed is already losing credibility as a body capable of directing interest rates, he said.