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Market expectation for a March hike softens after Fed says 'nothing'

Traders works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as a television screen displays coverage of U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen shortly after the announcement that the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike interest rates, in New York, December 14, 2016.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Traders works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as a television screen displays coverage of U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen shortly after the announcement that the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike interest rates, in New York, December 14, 2016.

Expectations of an interest rate hike in March declined after the U.S. central bank released its meeting statement Wednesday.

The probability of a March hike fell from 30 percent to 18 percent after the statement release, according to Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO. The estimates were derived from the fed funds futures contract for April.

The Federal Reserve left rates unchanged on Wednesday, as expected, and did not signal the timing on the next rate hike. The central bank noted a slight improvement in sentiment among consumers and businesses.

"There's literally nothing here, and people were trying to find one little hint or mention that basically says we're really considering March," said Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities.

In December, the Federal Open Market Committee raised its target range from a range of 0.25 to 0.5 percent, to a range of 0.5 to 0.75 percent.

— CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report.