FOREX-Dollar pins hopes on Fed, yen bounces on profit-taking
* Subdued start for major currencies after uneventful weekend
* Markets wait to see if Fed will finally taper stimulus this week
* Yen bounces back from 5-yr low vs dollar ahead of Fed
* Aussie under pressure after soft China PMI
By Ian Chua and Hideyuki Sano
SYDNEY/TOKYO, Dec 16 (Reuters) - The dollar moved little in Asia on Monday as investors waited to see if the Federal Reserve would begin to scale back its massive bond buying stimulus program this week.
The only notable mover in Asia was the yen, which recovered slightly off a five-year low against the dollar as some traders trimmed their huge yen-selling positions ahead of the Fed's Dec. 17-18 policy meeting.
But the yen remains under pressure, as an uptick in Japanese business sentiment hardly dented expectations of more easing by the Bank of Japan.
The dollar index slipped 0.15 percent to 80.09 on the yen's rebound, but it was otherwise supported after having risen late last week on growing expectations the Fed could finally begin tapering its stimulus programme.
"It's still 50/50 as to whether the Fed will announce tapering," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney.
Oliver said the case for a December taper is that the U.S. labour market looks stronger and fiscal risks have diminished with the budget deal. Against this, inflation remains very low and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke may prefer to see more evidence that recent employment and spending gains can be sustained.
"I kind of think they should just bite the bullet and start the process to put an end to the "will they taper or not" soap opera," he added.
The dollar slipped 0.4 percent to 102.89 yen, having briefly hit a five-year high just shy of 104.00 on Friday.
"I think the market is consolidating after having got carried away on Friday when it pushed up the dollar/yen to highs near 104 yen even when there was no catalyst," said a trader at a Japanese bank.
Data from U.S. financial watchdog showed speculators' net yen short positions remained near six-year high last week.
Selling the yen has been very popular trade as investors bet the Bank of Japan will maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy and may even ease further next year when a sales tax hike kicks in.
The BOJ is widely expected to keep its monetary settings unchanged at its Dec 19-20 review.
The BOJ's tankan survey showed on Monday confidence among big manufacturers improved to its highest level in six years, mostly in line with expectations.
But the data also showed manufacturers revised down their capital spending and more importantly did not change expectations that the BOJ will unveil fresh easing steps early next year.
The euro fetched $1.3758, little changed from late U.S. levels last week but down from a near two-month peak of $1.3811 scaled last week. Failure to hold above $1.3800 suggested scope for a retreat back to $1.3695 near term, BNP Paribas analysts said.
The Australian dollar stood near a 3 1/2-month low against the dollar and 3 1/2-year low against the euro, after HSBC's flash report showed China's manufacturing growth slowed to a three-month low in December.
The Aussie traded at $0.8945, not far from Friday's 3 1/2-month low of $0.8909.
The euro fetched A$1.5371, near last week's high of $1.5431. The Aussie fetched 92.04 yen, just above an important support around 91.80 yen, its two-month low hit on Dec. 4 as well as its 100-day moving average.