TREASURIES-Yields edge higher as minutes of Fed meeting awaited
* Fed minutes due on Wednesday, could show QE debate
* Yields on 10-year Treasuries hit a series of new highs
* Ben Bernanke to be absent from Fed's Jackson Hole conference
NEW YORK, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Yields on U.S. Treasuries climbed on Monday, extending gains in the previous week as investors looked ahead to minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting that could stoke views that the U.S. central bank is looking to pull back soon on a massive bond buying program. Benchmark yields touched the latest in a series of two-year highs, with little in the way of economic data to distract markets from expectations for the Fed minutes due on Wednesday. Speculation that the Fed could soon hit the brakes on its $85 billion per month buying of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities has sent yields soaring in recent months - over 100 basis points since May, with about 20 basis points in the past two weeks alone. The minutes will be "one of the few opportunities to get any type of insight into where the policy is leaning ahead of the potential taper announcement," said Ian Lyngen, senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. Half the economists in a Reuters poll expect the Fed to begin tapering its asset purchases in September, according to a Reuters poll. "The Jackson Hole conference later this week, while typically a big market focus, is unlikely to give us anything insightful as far as the thinking of the leaders of the Fed," Lyngen added. The Fed holds its annual monetary policy conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this year on August 22-24. However, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will not be attending this year, in contrast to previous years. His absence comes as investors await news on who could be the next chairman of the U.S. central bank, with current Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers the front-runners. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell 5/32 in price on Monday to yield 2.844 percent compared with 2.825 percent on Friday. The 30-year bond fell 6/32 in price to yield 3.858 percent compared with 3.847 percent on Friday. Some analysts noted that the Fed minutes could do little to soothe jittery markets, saying they were likely to underscore divergent views within the Fed. "With Minutes from the previous June FOMC meeting revealing that nearly half of FOMC participants wanted to discontinue the QE purchase program by year-end, we could see the likely healthy debate on QE tapering create additional market uncertainty," Gennadiy Goldberg, U.S. Strategist at TD Securities in New York, wrote to clients.