FOREX-Dollar edges higher after Bernanke speech; Q-and-A awaited
* Bernanke: tapering to begin this year, but plan not preset
* Sterling rises after unanimous vote to keep BoE QE on hold
NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - The dollar edged higher against the euro and yen on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank still expects to begin reducing stimulus this year, but that could change depending on the economic outlook. The market's reaction to Bernanke's prepared semi-annual statement to Congress was limited as traders said it contained little new information. Investors will look ahead to a lengthy question and answer session for more clarity on the Fed's thinking on winding back stimulus. "It's a mixed bag for the dollar," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington. "The fact that the Fed seems likely to taper stimulus this year should generally see the dollar hold an edge against its rivals. But the dollar would be susceptible to any downside surprises to data." The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.3138, but was still within sight of last week's peak of $1.3201, according to Reuters data. Initial support was cited at Monday's low of $1.2993. The dollar rose 0.2 percent to 99.33 yen, although it was still some way off this month's high of 101.53. While sticking closely to a time line he first outlined last month, that the Fed would halt bond buying by mid-2014 when unemployment is projected to be around 7 percent, Bernanke went out of his way to stress that nothing was set in stone.
Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, said the short-term market participants are reading Bernanke's comments "dovishly" as the dollar initially softened, bond yields eased and the equities moved higher. But he added, "as we do not see Bernanke breaking new ground in his prepared remarks, we would not be surprised to see the greenback recover." The dollar index, which tracks the greenback's performance against a basket of major currencies, rose 0.1 percent to 82.559, after hitting a three-week low of 82.342. Sterling rallied to a two-week high of $1.5270, after minutes from the Bank of England meeting surprised markets when it showed all nine MPC members had voted against expanding its bond-buying program. This wrong-footed investors who had built large bets against sterling in recent weeks expecting further policy-easing signals.