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The Week Ahead: Not shocking, but a little scary

A lion plays with a carved pumpkin during the Fort Worth Zooís 24th annual Halloween celebration "Boo at the Zoo," Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Fort Worth, Texas. Meat filled carved pumpkins were placed with the Zoo's African lion display for the big cats to play with and explore. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A lion plays with a carved pumpkin during the Fort Worth Zooís 24th annual Halloween celebration "Boo at the Zoo," Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Fort Worth, Texas. Meat filled carved pumpkins were placed with the Zoo's African lion display for the big cats to play with and explore. (AP Photo/LM Otero) AP

The decision that haunts the Federal Reserve the week of Halloween shouldn't spook investors any longer. Surprise is necessary to be shocked. After months (really years) of setting (and resetting) expectations, when the central bank changes its zero-interest policy, no one can claim to be shocked by the decision.

But scared? Fright is the result of uncertainty. And there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve's eventual decision to raise rates. Don't expect any of those worries to disappear in the week ahead when the Federal Reserve's interest-rate-setting committee meets.

The group meets Tuesday and Wednesday. It is not expected to change course on the cost of borrowing. The bank has been startled by China's economic slowdown. The committee is anxious for inflation to perk up, but that hasn't happened. The job market continues to grow, but millions of Americans remain out of the workforce.

The combination of stubbornly low inflation, modest job growth and China fears leads to the Fed's policy uncertainty. That uncertainty is becoming scary for investors.

It was just a few months ago that the Fed was widely expected to begin raising interest rates this year as confidence in the economy grew. Chairman Janet Yellen stuck to that prediction as recently as last month.

Throughout this cycle, the bank has been steadfast with reminding investors that its decision on when and how slowly to raise interest rates would be based on the economic data. The Fed's favored data for higher rates has not materialized. The annual inflation rate is near zero and job growth has slowed.

There's little to be shocked by in the data for the Fed, but enough uncertainty to be at least a little scared.

Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television. Follow him on Twitter@HudsonsView.

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