After the Fed's likely rate hike this week, all bets are off

By MARTIN CRUTSINGERFeaturesAssociated Press

Having raised interest rates with steady regularity in recent months, the Federal Reserve may embrace a new message this week: Flexibility.

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On Wednesday, the Fed is set to announce its fourth rate hike of the year. But after this week, no one is sure what it will do. Neither, most likely, is the Fed itself.

A confluence of factors — a global slowdown, a U.S.-China trade war, still-mild inflation, stomach-churning drops in stock prices — may have left Fed officials weighing a shift in policy. Many analysts think the Fed will signal Wednesday that it's considering whether to slow or suspend its rate hikes in 2019 to avoid weakening the economy too much. And some predict that the rate increases, which began three years ago, will end altogether next year.