TOKYO Asian shares sagged and the dollar stuck close to a two-month high against the yen in early trade on Wednesday as investors positioned for the possibility that the U.S. Federal Reserve would soon start slowing down its asset-buying stimulus.
Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told reporters on Tuesday that a reduction of the central bank's quantitative easing program remains a possibility at the Federal Open Market Committee's next policy meeting on December 17-18.
"There is a danger to the global stock market rally as the December FOMC meeting draws closer," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.
"Equity investors must monitor how emerging markets deal with the escalation of taper talk following a healthy October payroll report," he said in a note to clients.
Data on Friday showed an unexpected surge in U.S. jobs growth in October, suggesting the labor market could be strong enough for the Fed to begin to pare its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program sooner rather than later.
A Reuters poll of primary dealers on Friday found a majority of respondents still believe the Fed taper would not happen until March or later.
Global markets have been buffeted since May over speculation of an imminent end to cheap dollars, a major driver of assets in recent years.
Signals from central bank officials have been mixed, with Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, speaking about the need for aggressive action to foster growth.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell about 0.2 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was also down about 0.2 percent in early trade.
The dollar was last up about 0.1 percent at 99.66 yen after rising as high as 99.79 yen on Tuesday, its strongest level since September 13. The dollar faces resistance at 100 yen, above which it has not traded since September 11.
The euro was nearly flat from U.S. levels, holding well above lows set last week, when it suffered a heavy selloff on Thursday after the European Central Bank stunned investors by unexpectedly cutting its main rate to a record-low 0.25 percent.
The common currency bought $1.3433, well above its two-month low of $1.3295 hit on Thursday, but still down nearly 3 percent from a two-year peak of $1.3833 set last month.
The dollar index .DXY rose about 0.1 percent to 81.168, edging back toward a two-month peak of 81.482 struck on Friday.
In commodities trading, gold was slightly down, while copper fell on the heightened speculation that the Fed will taper its stimulus.
U.S. crude for December delivery was slightly higher at $93 per barrel after snapping a two-day rally on Tuesday, while the benchmark three-month copper contract fell 0.7 percent to $7,119.85 a ton.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)