FRANKFURT, Germany — Markets are braced for an interest rate increase from the European Central Bank, and waiting for clues about how far and how fast the bank will raise rates as it tries to ward off inflation from rising food and oil prices.

Economists think that a rate increase this month is a near-certainty after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet's statement at a March meeting saying that the bank would use "strong vigilance" against an inflationary spiral.

Eurozone inflation hit 2.6 percent in March, above the bank's goal of just under 2 percent.

The announcement of the rate decision was expected at 1145 GMT (7:45 a.m. EDT) Thursday.