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Daniel Ochoa de Olza.File, Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2010 file picture Jean Claude Trichet President of the European Central Bank gestures during a press conference after the V High-Level Seminar of the Eurosystem and Latin American Central Banks in Madrid. The spotlight will fall on the European Central Bank on Thursday April 7. 2011 as markets look to see whether the bank will follow up an expected interest rate increase with further moves in the months to come as it seeks to snuff out rising inflation. Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet has made it clear that a spike in inflation is not the legacy he wants to leave when his term ends Oct. 31, and he has clearly signaled his determination to start raising rates despite the economic ripples from the disasters in Japan and turmoil in the Arab world and Europe's own debt crisis.

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.