Federal Reserve officials are expected to take no action on U.S. interest rates at a two-day meeting that ends Wednesday.
But the monetary-policy committee's statement at the closed-door meeting's conclusion could signal how quickly Fed officials led by Chairman Jerome Powell will raise rates later in the year, according to Peng Zhou, managing director of derivatives and quantitative strategy at Sun Life Investment Management, which oversees about $45 billion.
An acknowledgement that committee members see inflation continuing to rise toward the Fed's 2% target could be seen as a tacit indication that the Fed will raise rates at least three more times this year, according to Zhou; economists are split on whether there will be two increases or three.
Another signal indicating a faster pace of monetary tightening would be an emphasis on a tight labor market, he said. Unemployment is already at a 17-year low of 4.1%.
"If they emphasize the tightening of the labor market, that will be a strong signal they're ready to hike rates at the next meeting" in June, Zhou said. "But in general I think this will be a no-surprise meeting."
The Fed has been raising U.S. borrowing costs since late 2015 in a bid to keep inflation from rising too fast as the economy accelerates -- with increasing vigilance as the stimulus takes hold from President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion of tax cuts enacted in late December. At a meeting in March, the panel increased the benchmark interest rate to a range between 1.5% and 1.75%.
Most investors view a rate hike in June as a foregone conclusion, though they're less certain about the Fed's path over the rest of the year, Zhou said.
Inflation, using the Fed's preferred measure of personal consumption expenditures, jumped in March to 2% versus a year earlier, hitting the central bank's target.
Fed staff economists had projected at the March meeting that price increases would accelerate toward the target this year and reach it in 2019, minutes released last month show. High inflation is considered bad for the economy, but persistently low inflation is usually seen as a sign of a sluggish economy.
"All signs are pointing to strengthening inflation," Zhou said.
Investors could temper their estimates of future interest rates if Fed officials express worries about a looming trade war, the prospect of a global economic slowdown, a recent strengthening in the U.S. dollar or an uptick in market volatility.
"The chance of that is probably small," Zhou said. "They probably want to still channel the message that they're ready to hike rates at the next meeting."