Asian markets tense before Fed- Nikkei outperforms

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LONDON (Reuters) – European shares edged higher and major currencies and commodities were little changed on Wednesday as investors awaited clarity on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s next policy step.

Recent mixed data on the health of the U.S. economic recovery is expected to encourage the Fed to leave its ultra-loose policy unchanged, but markets are on alert for any hints on when or how quickly it could wind back its bond buying.

“Our view is they are going to stick with $85 billion a month (of bond buying) until the end of the year… There is a lot of slack in the economy and there is no inflation pressure,” said Ned Rumpeltin, head of G10 FX strategy at Standard Chartered Bank.

The U.S. central bank is due to make a statement at 1800 GMT (2 p.m. EDT) followed by a news conference with Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose comments in May on the possibility of scaling back its stimulus brought this year’s market rally to a shuddering halt.

The dollar was a shade weaker against its Japanese counterpart, down about 0.2 percent at 95.10 yen, and was steady against the euro at $1.34 after the single currency touched a four-month high on Tuesday.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 edged up 0.2 percent in early trade, tracking gains on Wall Street and a rise in Japanese stocks. The Nikkei index .N225 was boosted by data showing Japan’s exports rose in May at the fastest annual rate in more than two years.

The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 45 countries, was up 0.25 percent, with activity expected to be limited ahead of the Fed statement.

“The Fed’s tone will clearly influence the action. If Bernanke indicates that tapering is quite a bit of distance off, investors will feel relieved and equities can revisit their recent highs,” Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets, said.

Bund futures were also little changed ahead of both news from the Fed and a sale of 5 billion euros of new 10-year German bonds later in the session. &lt-GVD/EUR&gt-

In likewise cautious commodity markets, growth-linked metals like copper, as well as safe-haven and inflation-linked assets such as gold, were restricted to minor moves.

Brent crude held above $106 a barrel, near an 11-week high, as hopes for ongoing Fed stimulus underpinned prices.

(Editing by John Stonestreet)

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