3 Min Read
* Dollar widens gains against yen and euro
* Fed trims monthly bond buying to $55 bln
* Yen off more than 1 percent (Recasts after Fed meeting, adds quotes, updates prices)
By Michael Connor
NEW YORK, March 19 (Reuters) - The dollar jumped on Wednesday as traders expanded early gains against the euro and the yen after U.S. central bankers cut back bond purchases and cited foul winter weather as a factor for worrying softness in American economic data.
The yen fell more than 1 percent against the dollar while the dollar index gained 0.8 percent to 80.056 after the Federal Reserve ended a two-day meeting by saying it would push ahead with plans to wind down its stimulus. It also said it will likely need to keep interest rates low even after the economy recovers given lasting scars from the financial crisis.
"It's a little bit more hawkish than people expected," said Shaun Osborne, foreign exchange strategist at TD Securities in Toronto. "They seem to see interest rates rising sooner rather than later. ... This is helping the dollar."
In addition to reducing economy-bolstering bond purchases to $55 billion a month, the Fed said it could keep interest rates low even after the U.S. job market revives fully and inflation rises to its target.
Ahead of the Fed policy statement, the dollar had been up against the yen and the euro but climbed sharply afterwards. The dollar in late New York trade stood at 102.55 yen to the dollar, up 1.2 percent.
The euro backed away from the $1.40 level it had been approaching and was at $1.3816 on Wednesday for a decline of 0.83 percent.
The Swiss franc also dropped against the dollar and traded off 1.05 percent at 0.8820 franc to the dollar.
Sterling, which had come off a one-month low and risen as high as $1.6653, was also knocked down by the Fed news and was off 0.4 percent at $1.6527 in late New York trade.
Sterling had risen with help from British data showing wages ticking higher and a steadily improving jobs market. The number of Britons claiming jobless benefits fell more than expected while wages rose 1.4 percent year-on-year, which though higher than forecast was still below inflation.
Investors remained cautious over tensions in Ukraine. Anxiety eased somewhat after Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he did not plan to seize other regions of Ukraine after Crimean citizens on Sunday voted to be annexed by Moscow. (Additional reporting by Anirban Nag in London; Editing by James Dalgleish)