TOKYO/SYDNEY (Reuters) - The dollar drifted lower against the yen in Asia on Wednesday but major currency moves were small as investors awaited the outcome of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting and hoped for some clear signals on the future of U.S. monetary policy.
In what could well be a turning point for global markets, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has the chance to address speculation that the central bank will start tapering its asset-buying stimulus before the year is out.
The post-meeting Fed's policy statement is due at 2.00 p.m. EDT with Bernanke's news conference to follow half an hour later, and last-minute position adjusting before the outcome of the Fed's two-day meeting has dominated this week's trade.
"Positions have been squared off, closed orders have been filled, it's just settling into positions to move either way, whichever way is indicated by Mr. Bernanke," said Bart Wakabayashi, head of forex at State Street Global Markets in Tokyo.
Many analysts suspect Bernanke will try to emphasize that tapering is not tightening and an actual rise in the funds rate is still a distant prospect, perhaps not until 2015. But he could also underscore his remarks last month, when he said the Fed could opt to slow its bond purchases in the next few meetings if the economy improves.
His news conference is viewed as a test of his ability to calm the markets and give them some direction, Wakabayashi said.
"I think the market just wants a united message: tapering or not? The uncertainty there has led to some excess volatility, which has led to people pulling out of some markets," he added.
One result has been the sharp rise in longer-dated U.S. Treasury yields over the past six weeks. Over time this is expected to act as a support for the U.S. dollar, though in the near term heavy foreign selling of Treasuries has blunted the impact.
Last month, the benchmark yield on 10-year U.S. notes jumped 46 basis points, its biggest one-month jump in nearly 2-1/2 years, according to Reuters data, on growing anticipation that the Fed will pare its purchases.
The dollar was a shade weaker against its Japanese counterpart, down about 0.1 percent at 95.22 yen, but steady against the euro at $1.3390 after the single currency touched a four-month high of $1.3415 on Tuesday.
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was a fraction higher at 80.683 <.DXY>, holding above a four-month low of 80.500 touched on Thursday.
Some U.S. hedge funds were said to buy one-month dollar calls overnight and were also buying dollars early in the session on expectations that Japanese trade data for May would disappoint. But the report showed exports rose at the fastest annual rate in more than two years, lifted by a weaker yen and a moderate pick-up in global demand.
The Australian dollar was in the crosshairs ahead of the Fed, not only as a commodity currency but also as a liquid proxy for emerging Asian markets, both of which would come under pressure on any hint of Fed tapering.
Shorting the Aussie against the euro has been particularly popular, with the single currency climbing 15 percent since early April.
The euro was up at A$1.4126 on Wednesday, approaching a 22-month high of A$1.4237 hit on June 11. Its next target is the A$1.4340 peak of March 2011.
Against its U.S. counterpart, the Aussie edged down 0.1 percent to $0.9473.
The Aussie has shed 10 percent on the dollar since April, a move welcomed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) as a stimulus to the country's export sector.
(Editing by Ian Chua & Kim Coghill)
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