The prospect of higher interest rates continues to stalk the financial markets. On Wednesday, concerns the Federal Reserve will have to tighten monetary policy sooner vs. later were heightened by a higher-than-expected consumer price index report and a narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit. On Tuesday, a host of strong economic news slammed the bond market . As stronger-than-expected economic data have poured in during the past month, Fed tightening seems to be a foregone conclusion. The only question is when the first rate hike hits. Brian Wesbury, chief economist at Griffin Kubik Stephens & Thompson, worries that the Fed will wait too long to start lifting rates. "The economy is clearly on a sustainable growth rate here and stronger than people think," Wesbury argued. "Inflation is definitely more of a risk now ... and if the Fed waits, it will be too late to stop inflation." The government said CPI rose 0.5% in March vs. expectations for a 0.3% gain, and is now up 1.7% vs. a year ago. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.4% in March, its biggest monthly increase since late 2001. (Many economists believe CPI understates inflation; for some time, other measures such as commodity prices and the spread between inflation-protected and regular Treasury securities have indicated greater inflationary pressures than the "official" government proxy.) Wesbury pegs the odds of a Fed move by the end of August at 100%. "If you believe all of the recent data, we need to have a rate hike today," he said. Indeed, a Fed move before the Aug. 10 policy meeting is highly likely, he said, placing a 90% chance of the Fed moving in June or before. He thinks a move in May or before has a 60% chance. Wesbury, who had thought a first-quarter rate hike seemed likely, remains more aggressive in forecasting tightening than most market participants; currently, fed funds futures put the odds of a rate hike at about 10% for the Federal Open Market Committee's May 4 meeting and 46% for its June 30 meeting, according to Bianco Research in Chicago. However, expectations for the June meeting are up from just 10% on March 31, and the futures are forecasting nearly 100% odds of a rate hike at or before the Aug. 10 confab.