×

Market could hit trouble if Fed gets behind the ball on rate hikes, experts warn

If the Federal Reserve doesn't begin to normalize interest rates, it risks getting caught behind, two experts warned Monday.

That's because if inflation gets a little bit on the upper end of the range, the central bank will be "forced to tighten more quickly" than they'd like, Gabriela Santos, global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds, said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch."

And that will not be good news for the market, Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group, added.

"When you have a Fed rate hiking cycle where the Fed's behind the ball, the market runs into trouble," he told "Power Lunch." "When you have these slow, gradual periods where they're hiking rates, the market tends to weather it better."

Janet Yellen
Getty Images
Janet Yellen

Recent hawkish comments by Fed members caused the market to become concerned the central bank would resume its rate-hiking cycle. However, on Monday Fed Governor Lael Brainard said the central bank should continue to keep policy loose, urging "prudence" in the decision to raise rates.

The Fed's policymaking arm is set to meet next week, but traders now only anticipate a 15 percent probability that the Fed will boost rates at the gathering.

However, Santos said the data is good enough to justify an increase.

"They have two sides of the mandate — they have the labor market and they have inflation and to us, both of those are signaling that it's more than appropriate to normalize," she said.

And despite the angst about a potential hike weighing on the market, Hickey said U.S. equities still command a valuation premium over the rest of the world.

"One rate hike here isn't going to be a huge deal on the markets by any stretch," he said.

— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.