The European Central Bank held interest rates at a record low of 1.0 percent as expected on Thursday, despite rising inflation fears.

Euro zone inflation hit 2.4 percent in February, topping the ECB's target of below, but close to 2 percent for the third month in a row.

Nevertheless, all 82 economists in a Reuters poll predicted the ECB would leave rates at 1 percent for the 22nd meeting running this month.

The median expectation among economists is for no change until the fourth quarter of 2011 although financial market investors have started to bet on a rise in the third quarter.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet will talk about the reasoning behind the bank's decision at a news conference starting at 1330 GMT (8:30 a.m. EST).

(Reporting by Sakari Suoninen)