4 Min Read
* U.S. equities, world share markets little changed; Tokyo up
* Dollar steadies against major currencies, weaker vs yen
* Oil holds around $106 a barrel; gold edges higher
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, June 19 (Reuters) - Equities were flat while major currencies and commodities traded within recent ranges on Wednesday as investors awaited a statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve that they hope will shed light on its next move.
The Fed is expected to leave policy ultra-loose following the central bank's meeting that ends later on Wednesday but may hint it will start scaling back its bond buying later this year if the U.S. labor market continues to improve.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's comment last month that the U.S. central bank could begin to curtail bond purchases at one of its "next few meetings" put up a speed bump for the equity rally and pushed bond yields higher.
U.S. stocks opened slightly lower, while European shares were flat. The MSCI world equity index, tracking shares in 45 countries, was little changed, adding 0.04 percent, while Tokyo's Nikkei index jumped 1.8 percent and U.S. Treasuries prices rose.
"The early morning action is not surprising given the fact that we've had two days of position jockeying ahead of the FOMC announcement," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.
The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee will announce its decision at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), followed 30 minutes later by a news conference with Bernanke.
Speculation about when and by how much the Fed could start to trim its $85 billion a month in bond purchases has supported the dollar against emerging and growth-linked currencies, although uncertainty over the impact of any policy shift has led some investors to prefer the yen or the euro.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 3.52 points, or 0.02 percent, at 15,314.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.43 points, or 0.03 percent, at 1,651.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.48 points, or 0.04 percent, at 3,483.66.
Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index inched up 0.1 percent. The dollar shed 0.3 percent against the Japanese currency on Wednesday to trade around 95.01 yen. But it was little changed against the euro at $1.34 after the single currency touched a four-month high on Tuesday.
"I think the market is a bit ahead of itself on the tapering story," said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.
"It's going to be quiet going into it, then I think it will turn very volatile in the U.S. afternoon following the Fed statement and the press conference," he said. "People generally lack much conviction about the near-term direction and how the markets respond to the Fed."
Against a basket of major currencies the greenback was holding steady at around 80.572.
Benchmark 10-year Treasuries were last up 1/32 in price to yield 2.18 percent. The 30-year bond was 12/32 higher in price with a yield of 3.25 percent
Trading could get choppy in equity markets, where many major indexes have hit new records this year due to the liquidity injections from major central banks, making them vulnerable to any scaling back in the flow of funds from the Fed. The benchmark S&P 500 is up more than 15 percent since the start of the year.
A drop in U.S. oil reserves gave some support to oil prices but the Fed was still the main focus. Brent crude added 30 cents to $106.32 a barrel, putting it on track for its highest close since early April.
U.S. crude for July delivery touched a nine-month high of $99.01, before easing to $98.49, still up 5 cents.
Gold edged up, with spot gold up 0.4 percent at $1,373.36 an ounce, while U.S. gold futures rose $5.90 an ounce to $1,372.80.