RTX2U595 (1)
Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen hinted at an upcoming interest rate hike when she testified before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C., Nov. 17, 2016. Reuters

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is widely expected to announce that the central bank will be hiking its target for the federal funds rate at a 2:30 p.m. Wednesday press conference. The Fed will be live-streaming Yellen’s statement on its YouTube channel, its Ustream channel and its website.

Traders and analysts almost unanimously expect a rate increase, which will drive up other interest rates, like those of bonds and mortgages, and strengthen the dollar.

The derivatives marketplace CME Group pegged the chance of a hike at 99.7 percent as of Wednesday morning, while all 120 economists surveyed by Reuters expected the Fed to increase the rate to a target range of between 0.5 and 0.75 percent, up from a band of between 0.25 and 0.5 percent today.

The last time the Fed increased its target, up from a range of between zero and 0.25 percent, was December 2015. The central bank delayed an increase after its Nov. 2 meeting, citing only moderate job growth and low inflation, in part as a result of energy price declines.

But those factors changed at the turn of the month, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate hit a nine-year low in November and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reached an agreement Nov. 30 to cut its oil output, sending the price up as much as 17 percent in the weeks since.

The Fed is also expected to continue raising the rate throughout the next year, with some experts projecting up to four increases by the end of 2017. The central bank is on its way to pushing the federal funds rate to a neutral level of about 2.5 percent, which it hasn’t reached since the Fed dropped its target in the wake of the recession in an effort to stimulate economic activity.

While a decrease in the rate inspires investment and borrowing among business owners and home and car buyers, an increase is meant to tie back inflation and the instability associated with rapid growth, to keep the economy stable in times of boom.