* MSCI Asia ex-Japan down 0.1 pct, Nikkei recovers to rise
* Euro near highs vs yen, dollar
* Dollar index hovers near four-month lows, USD/JPY hits
3-1/2 mth low
* Fed policy results due 1630 GMT, Bernanke briefing to
* European shares seen pausing
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Sept 13 Asian shares slipped slightly in
choppy trade on Thursday ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's
decision later in the day, but investors remained cautiously
optimistic for further stimulus action to bolster the world's
Commodities from oil to gold were also held in tight ranges
ahead of the Fed decision expected to be released at 1630 GMT,
followed by Chairman Ben Bernanke's news conference about two
A Reuters poll showed economists raised their bets of a
third round of Fed bond buying known as quantitative easing (QE)
to 65 percent from 60 percent in August.
As the dollar suffered from expectations for QE, which would
be equal to printing money and diluting the value of the
greenback, the euro stayed near four-month highs against the
U.S. currency on signs Europe was taking steps to manage its
European equities were seen pausing, while a 0.1 percent
drop in U.S. stock futures suggested a weak Wall Street
start. Financial spreadbetters called London's FTSE 100,
Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open
"Any goodwill towards risk assets, probably more so in FX
land, could be undone pretty quickly if Ben Bernanke fails to
live up to what is expected of him and the Fed board today,"
said Chris Weston, trader at IG Markets.
"Given the good run of equities and the fall in the USD
since June, there is a real possibility (even if we get what we
want) that a classic buy-the-rumour, sell-the-fact type event
plays out," he said.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was down 0.1 percent after swinging in a plus
and minus 0.2 percent range.
Australian and Shanghai shares were the
worst performers, both dropping 0.4 percent while South Korean
shares recouped earlier losses to be nearly flat.
"There's no true indication on why the market should be
selling off today but they're all a bit quiet ahead of that
(decision)," said Juliana Roadley, market analyst at
Commonwealth Securities, of the Australian stock market.
"I think major investors just don't want to get in ahead of
this major announcement," said Roadley.
Japan's Nikkei average outperformed with a 0.5
percent rise, buoyed by gains in shippers and Apple suppliers,
amid growing expectations of an easing of U.S. monetary
The dollar index, measured against a basket of key
currencies, stuck near a four-month low and the dollar fell to a
fresh 3-1/2 month low of 77.68 against the yen.
"We expect the US dollar to emerge weaker both on the day
and multi-day/week on delivery of QE," said Sean Callow, senior
currency strategist at Westpac in Sydney.
Sluggish stocks weighed on Asian credit markets, widening
the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index
by 3 basis points, but still near its tightest
level since August last year.
South Korea's central bank unexpectedly held interest rates
steady at 3 percent on Thursday, waiting to see the effect from
a euro-zone bond-buying programme. Central banks in Indonesia
and the Philippines also hold policy meetings this session.
GERMAN RULING BOOSTS EURO
The euro clung near its four-month high of $1.2937
touched on Wednesday, supported by positive developments in the
Pro-European parties won a sweeping victory in Netherlands,
a core euro zone country, adding to the optimism after a German
constitutional court approved the euro zone's new rescue fund
and budget pact, with some conditions.
The ruling is another step in a concerted effort to preserve
the common currency bloc, with the European Central Bank
deciding to buy short-term bonds of states that apply for
bailout and abide by strict conditions, and the European Union
proposing a single euro zone banking supervisor.
U.S. crude steadied at $97.04 a barrel and Brent
inched up 0.1 percent to $116.10.
Spot gold steadied at $1,731.54 an ounce, after
expectations for a new U.S. monetary stimulus fuelled a rally to
6-1/2 month highs of $1,746.20 on Wednesday.