When will the Fed hike interest rates?

@CNNMoney April 12, 2012: 7:28 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Federal Reserve officials are more talkative than ever, making roughly 20 public appearances this week.

And while all the noise coming from "hawks" and "doves" could give you a case of Fed fatigue, there's one point both sides are hammering home: Forget the central bank's forecast for raising interest rates in 2014. At this point, anything could happen.

In its last policy statement, the Fed said it expected to keep interest rates at record lows "at least through late 2014." But not everyone on the voting committee agreed with that statement.

This week, several "hawks" -- members concerned about higher inflation -- have been speaking out again.

Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, gave two speeches this week, arguing for the Fed to pull back sooner rather than later.

He predicts the unemployment rate will continue to fall and inflation will start trending higher, making it the wrong time for the Fed to be pumping more money into the system.

Instead, he said, his colleagues may have to raise rates as early as this year.

"I see no need for additional accommodation at this time, and I believe that conditions will warrant raising rates well before the end of 2014," he said in remarks in White Bear Lake, Minn. on Thursday afternoon.

Separately, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher piped up earlier this week, saying business leaders are telling him they too are concerned the Fed's stimulative policies could spark rapid inflation.

So far that hasn't happened. Currently, the annual inflation rate is hovering around the Fed's goal of 2%.

But some of the more dovish members of the Fed are speaking out too.

They're less concerned with inflation and think the Fed should continue to support the economy through loose monetary policy.

Janet Yellen, second in command to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, said Wednesday that the Fed may have to keep interest rates near zero not only through 2014, but until late 2015.

She stressed many of Bernanke's recent points: the job market remains "far from full employment" and the economy still has many risks looming on the horizon including a still struggling housing market, tighter fiscal policy and worries about global growth.

Yellen even hinted that if the economy were to take a turn for the worse, further easing might be needed.

"Considerable uncertainty surrounds the outlook, and I remain prepared to adjust my policy views in response to incoming information," she said.

What Yellen says should be taken seriously. She's part of the Fed's dovish camp, which currently accounts for a majority of the votes on the central bank's policymaking committee. That group also includes Bernanke, New York Fed President William Dudley and the three other Fed governors.

So what's the main takeaway from all the banter?

As the Fed has been saying all along, the 2014 forecast was never set in stone. It's merely an estimate that can be adjusted in response to economic developments.

Given that the data on that front have been murky lately, it's no wonder there are varying viewpoints internally.

Yes, the unemployment rate has fallen dramatically, to 8.2% in March, down from 9% just six months earlier. But, hiring also slowed recently and as Bernanke has pointed out, economic growth is still not robust enough to support consistently strong job gains going forward.

So what does the Fed chief think of all this? Stay tuned for more. Bernanke is scheduled to speak about "Reflections on the Crisis and the Policy Response" on Friday afternoon in New York. To top of page

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