(Updates prices, adds comments; changes byline, dateline, pvs LONDON)
* Traders take profits in dollar’s recent gains
* Traders lean toward Fed maintaining current rate hike forecasts
* Fed statement, projections due at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT)
* Chair Yellen press conference at 2:30 p.m.
By Sam Forgione
NEW YORK, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar edged lower against a basket of major currencies on Wednesday after traders took profits from the greenback’s recent gains on expectations that the Federal Reserve would take a cautious stance on future rate hikes this afternoon.
The dollar index, which gained nearly 4 percent between the Nov. 8 U.S. election and last Friday, slipped on bets that the Fed would maintain its projections for just two rate hikes next year. The Fed is widely seen as likely to raise its main rate by a quarter point to 0.50-0.75 percent.
The possibility that the Fed could surprise and increase the projections, however, limited the dollar’s losses heading into the central bank’s policy statement and projections at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) and a press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen following at 2:30 p.m.
The Fed is widely seen as likely to raise its main rate by a quarter point to 0.50-0.75 percent. It will be Yellen’s tone and the new forecasts for future rates that are expected drive the market response.
Talk among traders this week has focused on the risks of policymakers expressing concern at the dollar’s gains or alternatively ramping up the predicted pace of future rate hikes in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s spending plans.
“It is lightening of positions,” said Thierry Albert Wizman, global interest rates and currencies strategist at Macquarie Ltd in New York. “Long dollar is probably one of the most over-held positions out there so it’s safe to say ... we should be looking for some consolidation.”
Analysts said the dollar’s weakness showed a bias among market participants that the Fed also may hint at financial conditions having already tightened as a result of U.S. Treasury yields having shot higher and the dollar gaining in the wake of the Nov. 8 election.
The greenback’s weakness Wednesday is “emblematic of markets’ low conviction in the Fed altering its outlook for monetary policy,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was last down 0.3 percent at 100.770. The euro was last up 0.28 percent against the dollar at $1.0655. The dollar was down 0.2 percent against the yen at 114.93 yen, easing further from Monday’s 10-month high of 116.12 yen.
The dollar hit a six-day low against the Swiss franc of 1.0084 francs. (Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Bill Trott)