Just as Washington is gearing up to goose the economy, the Federal Reserve could be teeing up an interest rate increase that could put a damper on things.
The chances that the Fed will hike rates at its March 14-15 meeting have been creeping higher in recent days. By at least one estimate, the probability is now at 50 percent, after being in the teens just last week.
"This is what the Fed wanted," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. "Now, the Fed may not raise, but they wanted at least the flexibility to do it."
Central bank policymakers in the past have been loathe to tighten policy when the market is not anticipating such a move. The Fed last hiked in December, at a time when officials had telegraphed a move and the market had almost completely priced it in.
Hawkish statements in recent days appear to have pushed up the chances.
A summary released last week of the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 meeting revealed that members anticipated a hike "fairly soon," as long as economic data and financial conditions cooperated.
Then, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Monday that recent comments he has made that a hike should come sooner rather than later should be construed as meaning "in the near future." (Kaplan will be interviewed live by CNBC on Tuesday.)
The combination of events has translated into a coin flip of a chance for a March rate hike, according to Boockvar's calculations.