Expect at LEAST three rate hikes in 2016: Economist

Investors may need to brace for at least three rate hikes by the Fed next year, Renaissance Macro’s chief U.S. economist said Friday

“I think in 2016, we’re going to have the unemployment rate below 5 percent and headline inflation will be close to 2 [percent],” Neil Dutta told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “Underlying inflation dynamics are moving in a direction that’s going to pressure the Fed towards a more aggressive path than the markets are pricing in at the moment.”

“I think the Fed is going to go at least three times next year; if not four. That’s what they mean by ‘gradual,'” he said.

Several Fed officials have recently signaled they would be in favor ofincreasing rates for the first time in more than nine years, including Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, following a strong October jobs report.

The CME Group’s FedWatch tool puts the chances for a December rate increase at about 70 percent.

However, strategist Boris Schlossberg does not share Dutta’s view.

“Fixed income markets are the smartest markets in the world, and they are telling you that, even if the Fed moves, it’s going to be very much a one-and-done,” B.K. Asset Management’s managing director of FX strategy told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“One of the reasons why I think the euro doesn’t have that much more downside to go is because the market has already discounted the idea that we’re going to do the hike, and there’s nothing much more left after that for a while. The Fed is going to sit there and watch,” he said.

The euro has lost nearly 1 percent against the dollar this week and about 3 percent in November.

Schlossberg said the central bank would stand pat “only if we have some horrendous, exogenous shock.”

However, Oppenheimer Funds Chief Investment Officer Krishna Memani stressed Friday that investors should be careful if the central bank does hike next month.

“The Fed is tightening; they haven’t done anything like that in a long time. While it seems the economy may be doing OK, I think there are plenty of headwinds facing us,” he said in another “Squawk Box” interview. “Things are pretty slow in emerging markets, thing are falling apart in oil and in the energy sector.”

WTI crude in 2015

“It’s really more about how the markets and investors and, more importantly, companies, perceive it to be. If they believe that, as a result of this, things will slow down, and the U.S. is really the only source of growth in the world, then we’ll have a problem on our hands,” Memani said.