* Asian stocks softer as Fed outcome awaited
* Markets hope for clarity on any pullback in Fed stimulus
* Nikkei outperforms as softer yen boosts exporters
* Major currencies, commodities mostly steady
By Ian Chua
SYDNEY, June 19 Japanese stocks rose on
Wednesday, thanks to a positive lead from Wall Street and a
softer yen, outperforming the rest of Asia which anxiously
waited for clarity on the U.S. Federal Reserve's next policy
Major currencies, commodities and U.S. Treasuries were
subdued and European stocks were expected to open steady ahead
of the conclusion of the Fed's June 18-19 meeting.
A policy statement is due at 1800 GMT and Fed Chairman Ben
Bernanke will brief media half an hour later.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
eased 0.1 percent. Mainland Chinese stocks
led the decline with a 1.1 percent fall, partly as
official news reports dampened hopes for policy easing at home.
Hong Kong shares were dragged lower as a result,
while South Korea stocks fell 0.7 percent.
Tokyo's Nikkei average was a standout in Asia,
bucking the region's softer trend to rise 1.8 percent as
exporters such as Honda Motors benefited from a softer
But some market players played down the significance of the
Nikkei's bounce, preferring to wait until there is more clarity
about the Fed's outlook for its stimulus.
"It's merely a technical rebound," said Mitsushige Akino,
chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management. He said that
with the market still vulnerable to selling, "most investors
want to see the outcome before they take long positions."
Bernanke has the opportunity to soothe market jitters about
a possible scaling-back of the Fed's $85 billion monthly
bond-buying programme, but nobody is sure how markets will
interpret his stance.
The quantitative easing policy has helped fuel a global
rally in stock markets and recent talk of a pullback in stimulus
has knocked major indexes off their highs.
Indeed, the ex-Japan MSCI index has dropped about 8 percent
since May 22 when Bernanke told Congress that a decision to dial
down its bond-buying programme could come in the "next few
meetings" if the U.S. economy maintained its momentum.
Emerging markets, commodity currencies and U.S. Treasuries
were among the hardest hit as investors rushed to take profits
in a reaction that many analysts have described as overblown.
"Debate over the longevity of the Fed's bond purchase
programme has fuelled much of the recent volatility in financial
markets and traders will be hoping, at the least for some form
of clarity about its future," London-based Capital Spreads
trader Jonathan Sudaria wrote in a client note.
With the Fed outcome looming, currency investors retreated
to the sidelines, putting the dollar, euro and yen in a holding
The dollar was flat at 95.31 yen, holding on to
recent gains, while the euro was also little changed on the day
at 127.65, following a near 1-percent rally on
The euro was also steady near $1.3390, remaining near
a four-month peak of $1.3416. All that left the dollar a shade
firmer on the day against a currency basket.
Commodities also marked time with U.S. crude a mere
0.2 percent higher at $98.63 per barrel, while copper
was a touch softer at $7,004 per tonne.
Gold was steadier at $1,365 an ounce, following a 1.2
percent slide on Tuesday amid uncertainty about the Fed outcome.