GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares fall, dollar firms on Fed tapering bets

Reuters

* Fed's Lockhart adds to speculation of stimulus reductionat Dec Fed meeting

* Dollar near 2-month high vs. yen, closes in on 100-yenlevel

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Asian shares sagged and the dollarstuck close to a two-month high against the yen in early tradeon Wednesday as investors positioned for the possibility thatthe U.S. Federal Reserve would soon start slowing down itsasset-buying stimulus.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told reporters onTuesday that a reduction of the central bank's quantitativeeasing program remains a possibility at the Federal Open MarketCommittee's next policy meeting on Dec. 17-18.

"There is a danger to the global stock market rally as theDecember FOMC meeting draws closer," said Andrew Wilkinson,chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.

"Equity investors must monitor how emerging markets dealwith the escalation of taper talk following a healthy Octoberpayroll report," he said in a note to clients.

Data on Friday showed an unexpected surge in U.S. jobsgrowth in October, suggesting the labour market could be strongenough for the Fed to begin to pare its $85 billion-a-monthbond-buying programme sooner rather than later.

A Reuters poll of primary dealers on Friday found a majorityof respondents still believe the Fed taper would not happenuntil March or later.

Global markets have been buffeted since May over speculationof an imminent end to cheap dollars, a major driver of assets inrecent years.

Signals from central bank officials have been mixed, withNarayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed,speaking about the need for aggressive action to fostergrowth.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell about 0.2 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200index 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 strongestlevel since Sept. 13. The dollar faces resistance at 100 yen,above which it has not traded since Sept. 11.

The euro was nearly flat from U.S. levels, holding wellabove lows set last week, when it suffered a heavy selloff onThursday after the European Central Bank stunned investors byunexpectedly cutting its main rate to a record-low 0.25 percent.

The common currency bought $1.3433, well above itstwo-month low of $1.3295 hit on Thursday, but still down nearly3 percent from a two-year peak of $1.3833 set last month.

The dollar index 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, whilecopper fell on the heightened speculation that the Fed willtaper its stimulus.

U.S. crude for December delivery was slightly higherat $93 per barrel after snapping a two-day rally on Tuesday,while the benchmark three-month copper contract fell 0.7percent to $7,119.85 a tonne.

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