NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Investors will again be looking at what the Federal Reserve says more than what it does when the central bank policy-makers meet this week.
That's because what they'll do -- raise interest rates for the first time in four years by a quarter of a percentage point -- is all but certain.
But the statement that will accompany the widely expected rate hike, expected at about 2:15 p.m. ET Wednesday, will be closely read and analyzed for clues about the pace of future rate hikes.
The Fed's two-day meeting began Tuesday in Washington.
At the May meeting, the attention was on whether the word "patient" would remain in the statement describing the Fed's plans to raise interest rates to combat inflation. It disappeared, replaced by the statement that rates could be raised at "a pace that is likely to be measured."
So now economists and investors want to see whether that "measured" pace language will be maintained. The guess is that even if the word disappears, the sentiment will remain.
Anthony Chan, chief economist for Banc One Investment Advisors, is one who expects Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and the other members of the Federal Open Market Committee to include new language in Wednesday's statement, even if the meaning is not terribly different from a promise to move at a measured pace.
"We're still operating in a world of Greenspeak, and synonyms will always be there," he said "I think they'll give the impression they want to act in a measured pace, but they'll soften the tone."
Chan and some other economists say keeping the measured pace language limits the Fed's ability to get more aggressive with rate hikes in future meetings.
"If they keep the word, the financial markets will like that, because the Fed has put itself in a self-imposed box," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist with Wells Fargo banks. "If they discard the word measured, they'll be saying they're free to do what they want."
But others say that even the measured language gives the Fed the option to raise rates at whatever pace it feels appropriate come August.
They note that there were Fed watchers who assumed after the May meeting that the language in that statement meant the Fed would not raise rates in June.
"It's a rather flexible term that gives them the chance to take many different actions," said Tom Schlesinger, executive director of Financial Markets Center.
"I would bet anything they rue the day they got trapped into these terms like measured, patient. The signals Greenspan and others have given is that measured still the way they want to present their stance. It's now measured with a 'but,' behind it though."
That "but" is the promise by Greenspan and other governors over the last month that the Fed will raise rates at a quicker pace if it sees signs of a pickup in inflation.
Friday there was another one of those signals -- when the Commerce Department report on gross domestic product found that prices paid by consumers for items other than often volatile food and energy rose by 2 percent, rather than the previous reading of 1.7 percent.
That increase in inflation was a concern to economists Friday, but Chan said it's probably not enough of a concern yet to prompt a half-point increase in rates in August, but it might be enough to keep the word measured out of Wednesday's statement.
Chan said the inflation reading in the GDP report "keeps the Fed tightening engine humming along and does raise the possibility that a more aggressive posture could be adopted somewhere down the line if the inflation indicators continue to surprise to the upside."