"The Fed never wants to be seen as an influencer of a presidential election," Rob Morgan, chief investment officer at Sethi Financial Group, wrote in response to the survey. "They won't raise rates at the November meeting."
Morgan's certainty about no rate hike this week is mirrored in a certainty about December. David Kotok, chairman of Cumberland Advisors, wrote: "A December hike is widely anticipated. The Fed will deliver a negative surprise if it fails to hike a quarter point in December."
Yet respondents, who include economists, fund managers and strategists, continue to push down their outlook for how far the Fed will go in hiking rates and push back how quickly it will get there. Respondents see the fed funds rate rising to just 1.09 percent by the end of next year and to 1.81 percent by the end of 2018, with both down from the average forecast in September. And the Fed is forecast to stop hiking rates at just 2.4 percent and not get there until the first quarter of 2019, a quarter later than the prior survey.
Indeed, some are unconvinced of the need for the Fed to hike at all. "Given weak price pressures and slow economic growth, there is little reason for the Fed to raise interest rates in the immediate future," wrote Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
But Allen Sinai, chief economist of Sinai, Decision Economics, said: "The economy looks good. Inflation starting to move up and noticeably so."
Where the market is divided is on the issue of whether low interest rates are helping or hurting the economy. About third of respondents say low interest have no effect on the economy, a third say they hurt and a third say it helps.
Those who say it helps cite benefits to borrowers, pushing investors into riskier assets and spurring capital investments. The other side see those benefits as negatives, saying low rates are misallocating capital in the economy, creating asset bubbles and hurting savers.
"Monetary policy is doing nothing to stimulate economic growth at this point but it is promoting resource misallocation, risky investment behavior … and hurting the largest generation of retirees,'' wrote John Ryding, chief economist of RDQ Economics.