NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- All eyes -- and ears -- will be on Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen Thursday afternoon as speculation mounts about whether the central bank will announce its first interest rate increase in nine years.
In the end, whatever happens may be somewhat anticlimactic, says Ted Peters, a former board member of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank: Much of the effect of a rate hike has already been priced into the market.
"There's been so much anticipation that rates are going to go up, it's just a matter of when," said Peters, whose tenure on the Philadelphia Fed's board ended in December 2014. He's now chairman and CEO of Bluestone Financial Institutions Fund, also based in Philadelphia.
Earlier this year, a September rate hike seemed like a near certainty and markets adjusted in anticipation, according to Peters. Adding to that, Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report) noted in a report last week that its financial conditions index tightened 50 basis points since August amid recent market disruptions caused by a slowdown in China.
That tightening, "if maintained going forward -- would be equivalent to around three hikes in the funds rate," Jan Hatzius, the New York investment bank's U.S. economist, wrote. "Given that markets have done much of the Fed's 'dirty work,' we expect Fed officials to be on hold at least until December."
Whether the increase comes in September or December is likely to be inconsequential, Peters says, but he still thinks a move on Thursday is likely.
"I've been a proponent of rates going up in September for quite a while and I've gotten a little bit of heat because of it," Peters said. "If you look at the Fed's mandate -- which they have a dual mandate: one is full employment, the other is price stability -- I think those things are looking pretty positive."
Indeed, according to the most recent jobs report, unemployment has fallen to 5.1% -- its lowest level since April 2008 which was months before the peak of the financial crisis. While inflation hasn't hit the Fed's target of 2%, it currently stands around 1.2% and looks to be climbing, according to Peters.
The most significant aspect of a rate hike, Peters says, will be how the Fed describes it. If the central bank indicates future increases will be few and far between, that sends a different signal than suggesting a regular schedule of raises.
"The language is probably more important than the actual rate hike here," Peters said.