Federal Reserve policy-makers left a key interest rate at a 46-year low on Tuesday but dropped their promise to be patient before they start raising rates.
Many economists saw the statement by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues as a strong signal that rates will start rising this summer.
Most analysts said they believed the Fed's first rate hike in more than four years will occur in August, although a minority said it could come as early as the Fed's next meeting in June.
"They are no longer signaling that they can stay on hold for a number of months," said Lynn Reaser of Banc of America Capital Management in St. Louis. "We will see an increase in interest rates sometime this summer."
All analysts said that any actual Fed rate increases will depend on how the economic data comes out over the next few months, particularly in terms of jobs.