TREASURIES-Bond prices dip as traders speculate on Fed outcome
* Prices dip, investors focus on Wednesday's Fed decision
* Bonds yields briefly rise on Empire State data, homebuilder sentiment
* Fed buys $5.51 bln notes due 2018-2019
NEW YORK, June 17 (Reuters) - Long-dated U.S. Treasuries prices fell slightly on Monday as investors looked ahead to a meeting of the Federal Reserve for clarity about whether the U.S. central bank is close to paring back its bond purchases. The Fed's policy statement, expected on Wednesday, will be followed by a news conference with Ben Bernanke. The statement and the Fed chairman's answers have taken on greater significance after Bernanke said on May 22 the Fed may decide to pare its purchases in the next few meetings if the economy's recovery maintains momentum. The comments sparked a surge in Treasuries yields and a dramatic rise in markets' volatility as investors evaluated the effect if the Fed stops expanding its balance sheet. "You're going to continue to see extreme volatility around these Fed meetings just because of what the chairman has stated," said Dan Mulholland, managing director in Treasuries trading at BNY Mellon in New York. Many economists see the economy on a stronger footing that will enable to Fed to pull back some of its stimulus. Most economists expect the Fed will reduce its purchase program by the end of year, and a significant number see less Fed buying as early as September, according to a Reuters poll. A number of traders and investors are concerned that the bond purchases are creating market dislocations that will make an exit harder and add to risks that the Fed will create new asset price bubbles. A Wall Street Journal article on Thursday said the Fed is unlikely to end all of its purchases at once and is still far away from raising rates. That prompted a Treasuries rally and pushed back expectations of tapering purchases. It also added to confusion over whether the Fed was concerned about the recent market moves. "First the market thought that tapering would occur sooner rather than later, and the market has been going through a pretty big deleveraging period the last three weeks. Now, with this article, it turned the tables," said James Combias, head of government bond trading at Mizuho Securities in New York. Treasuries yields had been falling from 13-month highs before the Wall Street Journal article. They extended the rally as investors pushed back expectations on when the Fed may reduce purchases. "We were priced for imminent tapering this summer, and that's now been pushed back to year end or first quarter of next year," said BNY's Mulholland. Benchmark 10-year Treasuries were down 2/32 in price to yield 2.14 percent. The yields have fallen from 2.29 percent last Tuesday, a high of more than 13 months but remain significantly higher than about 1.60 percent in early May. Thirty-year bonds fell 6/32 in price to yield 3.31 percent, down from 3.43 percent last Tuesday, also a high of more than 13 months and up from 2.82 percent at the beginning of May. The Fed bought $5.51 billion in notes due 2018 and 2019 on Monday as part of its ongoing purchases. Treasuries yields briefly rose after data showed that growth in New York state manufacturing picked up in June, though the details showed a contraction in new orders while employment measures weakened. The yields also rose after data showed U.S. homebuilder sentiment jumped in June, rising above a milestone for the first time since the start of the housing crisis.