When it comes to low inflation, 2014 will have proved to be a banner year.

For the first time in at least 55 years, not one advanced economy will see consumer prices growing more than 4 percent this year. Even as recently as 2011, a quarter of rich nations recorded a rate at or higher than that.

Indeed, across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, average inflation excluding food and energy hasn’t breached 2 percent since the start of 2009 -- the longest stretch of weakness since data began 43 years ago.

Furthermore, consensus forecasts for inflation have been trending down since late 2012, the lengthiest run of downgrades since the end of the 1990s.

Such factoids, courtesy of a Dec. 1 study by Citigroup Inc. economist Michael Saunders, highlight the world of lowflation, a term coined earlier this year by the International Monetary Fund to describe an extended period of ultra-low inflation. Looking forward, Saunders doesn’t see average inflation in any rich economy topping 3 percent from 2015 to 2019.

It is that, more than Russia’s man-made economic implosion, which probably poses the biggest international concern for U.S. Federal Reserve policy makers meeting in Washington today.

‘NO! NO! NO!’

“The Fed is in a corner -- it wants to raise rates in 2015 but Oil / Dollar / Disinflation say NO! NO! NO!!” billionaire investor Bill Gross of Janus Capital Group Inc. wrote on Twitter yesterday.

Citigroup and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman agree. Citigroup doesn’t see the Fed acting before next December, while Krugman said Dec. 14 it could hold fire for the whole of next year as officials conclude “it’s a pretty weak world economy out there, we don’t see any inflation.”

The betting is still that with U.S. labor markets tightening and cheaper oil boosting purchasing power Chair Janet Yellen and colleagues will dump a pledge not to raise interest rates for a “considerable time.” The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News is that will pave the way for the first U.S. rate increase since 2006 in the third quarter of next year.

Why should the Fed worry about low inflation abroad when unemployment is sliding at home? Saunders’ colleague Jeremy Hale has the answer in arguing the U.S. is increasingly exposed to foreign price pressures.