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No rate hike: that's the message from the Federal Reserve's October statement, but brace for a December liftoff.

"December is when everyone who follows the Fed closely is expecting the rate increase to happen," said Nick Colas, chief market strategist at Convergex, a New York-based brokerage firm. "They essentially promised it over the course of this year," referring to a variety of Fed officials making public statements about how a 2015 liftoff was in play.

During the Fed's September statement, the central bank said global economic and financial developments may hurt economic growth. The Fed was largely referring to weakness at the time in China and emerging markets. During the October statement, the Fed said it is "monitoring" these developments.

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"This change seems to suggest that they are continuing to follow it," he said. "It's no longer a crisis situation as it was in late August, but one that they should monitor over time so it seems to be a bookmark for that topic that we're going to hear about again and again."

Meanwhile, inflation is still holding the Fed back. The personal consumption expenditure price index, the Fed's favorite inflation gauge, rose only 1.3% over the past year as of August, on a core basis. That's far from the Fed's 2% target.

"Inflation isn't behaving as it does historically during times of low unemployment," Colas added, referring to the classic Phillips Curve, which says unemployment goes down and inflation rises.

Perhaps investors should be less focused on when the Fed will hike, but if the Fed is willing to look past weak inflation and stray from its mandate.

"Inflation is not going to happen in the next six months to the Fed's satisfaction," he said. "If they are going to raise rates, it's going to have to be in-spite of the inflation numbers not because of them."