How the smart money is reading the Fed's tea leaves

Posted December 18, 2018 2:36 p.m. EST

— Fed leaders are meeting this week following a volatile few months on Wall Street. On Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell is expected to announce a decision to raise rates for the fourth time this year.

What he says about the economy could help investors figure out what to expect in 2019.

Lately, the Fed has said it plans on raising rates gradually. Moving forward, it may take a more data-driven approach, Stifel Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza said in a recent note.

"More than directing the market to a predetermined pathway for rates or a commitment to a precise level of the target rate, the Committee has renewed the Fed's longstanding policy position of data dependency," she said. That commitment to data, Piegza said, could mean fewer rate hikes than expected in 2019. That's because growth and inflation are on track to slow down next year, she explained.

Inflation does not pose an immediate threat to the economy, and booming corporate sales are expected come back to earth a bit next year, Piegza said. So the Fed may have to dial back its hawkish policy somewhat going forward.

Investors will be eager to hear what the Fed has to say Wednesday, especially as uncertainty around trade relations between the United States and China and fears of a global economic slowdown continue to throw the markets into turmoil.

Piegza will join CNN Business editor-at-large Richard Quest to discuss the Fed's meeting and the stock market on "Markets Now" Wednesday.

"Markets Now" streams live from the New York Stock Exchange every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. ET. Hosted by CNN's business correspondents, the 15-minute program features incisive commentary from experts.

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