Federal Reserve

It's (almost) official: The Fed is raising rates next week

ADP reports largest payroll increase since December 2015
ADP reports largest payroll increase since December 2015

If there were any doubts about whether the Federal Reserve would be hiking interest rates this month, Wednesday's blockbuster jobs report almost completely removed them.

A report showing that private companies added 298,000 jobs in February pushed market-implied probability of a Fed move to 92 percent, according to the CME's FedWatch tracker that measures the futures market.

Traders had assigned an 82 percent chance of a move Tuesday but pushed it higher after the report from ADP and Moody's Analytics.

A Fed hike would bring its target range for overnight rates to 0.75 percent to 1 percent. Central bank officials have indicated that three increases are likely this year, though positive economic data and other indicators are spurring talk of more aggressive moves.

In recent speeches, Yellen and others have commented on the importance of fiscal policy. President Donald Trump has promised aggressiveness in that regard, with tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and infrastructure spending near the top of his priorities list.

"Going forward it just depends on the deliverables from the administration and if that confidence can be maintained," said Craig Bishop, lead fixed income strategist at RBC Wealth Management. "Further increases in the monthly numbers like this could drive the Fed to be even more aggressive over the course of the year."

Traders are pricing in July as the next most likely month for a hike, with December now carrying a 61 percent chance for a third move.

The market has been expecting the Fed to move at the two-day meeting that concludes next Wednesday as the central bank's targets for employment and inflation come within closer reach. Most economists believe the economy is near full employment, while inflation data either have been ahead of or just shy of the Fed's 2 percent target.

"As for the Fed, one of their biggest fears was waiting too long to hike rates which would then force them to quicken the pace in order to play catch up," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, said in a note. "Unfortunately their biggest fear is now coming to life."

A speech Friday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen seemed to solidify that the Fed would move in March, but the market was waiting for jobs data this week to confirm.

The ADP numbers come ahead of Friday's key nonfarm payrolls report, considered the official count of job creation in the public and private sectors. Expectations are for the report to show a gain of 185,000 from January's 227,000, according to FactSet.

However, Wednesday's report could cause those numbers to get ratcheted higher.