* Option-related demand helps euro, but problems persist
* U.S. economy improved in May, Fed's Beige Book says
* Thursday's ECB meeting in focus
* Chinese exports said to rise, easing global growth fear (Adds details, updates prices)
By Steven C. Johnson and Vivianne Rodrigues
NEW YORK, June 9 (Reuters) - The euro edged higher versus the dollar on Wednesday, boosted by options-related demand and renewed market hopes that Europe's debt crisis may not put the brakes on global growth.
Talk that Chinese exports in May likely grew sharply bolstered confidence, while Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. recovery was on solid footing. For details, see [ID:nN09137822] and [ID:nTOE65805R]
Traders took the opportunity to take profits on the euro's recent slide, which took it below $1.19 on Monday to its lowest level since early 2006. European stocks closed higher, while U.S. stocks reversed earlier strong gains in late trade. The premium investors demand to hold Spanish and Italian bonds over benchmark German bunds fell [GVD/EUR].
Few were ready, however, to declare the euro's woes over.
Banks' overnight deposits at the European Central Bank hit a record on Wednesday, highlighting widespread worries about the health of the financial system. [ID:nLDE6580FO]
In late afternoon trading in New York, the euro was changing hands at $1.1983 EUR=, up 0.1 percent. It hit $1.1876 Monday, its lowest since March 2006. The euro has shed about 16 percent against the dollar this year.
Steven Butler, head of FX trading at Scotia Capital, said while the euro in the short term could reach $1.2110, his longer-term view is more pessimistic.
"I still think there's downside," he said. "And overall, this move over the past few months has seen new lows hit, then consolidation and a nasty bounce back before we make another assault downward."
Traders said option expiries at $1.1900 and $1.1850 added to euro demand as investors bought the currency to protect their positions.
Against the yen, the euro reversed earlier gains and fell, sliding 0.4 percent to 109.11 yen EURJPY=. It hit an eight-year low beneath 109 yen on Monday.
The euro hit a record trough below 1.38 Swiss francs EURCHF=R but later recovered. The Swiss National Bank has been intervening since 2009 to limit franc strength, but traders have speculated that further intervention may prove futile given the euro's woes.
The dollar fell against the yen as U.S. stocks reversed gains and fell late in the trading session. The greenback was last 0.5 percent lower at 91.08 yen JPY=.
U.S. economic activity improved nationwide last month, but worries about Europe's debt crisis dented confidence, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book collection of anecdotal reports. [ID:nWAL9HE68F]
Meanwhile, analysts said the market was still betting that euro zone economic growth will lag growth in the United States as heavily indebted countries are forced to slash spending in exchange for access to emergency aid. The ECB is expected to keep interest rates at a record low when it meets on Thursday.
Kathy Lien, director of research at GFT Forex, said markets will watch on Thursday for clues whether the ECB plans new efforts to support troubled euro zone countries.
The ECB began buying government bonds last month to cut some countries' borrowing costs.
What happens "could determine whether the euro makes a move back toward $1.19 or sustains gains above $1.20," she said.
The euro was also helped on Wednesday after sources said that Chinese exports grew 50 percent in May from a year earlier, which analysts said helped ease fears that Europe's debt crisis would slow global growth. Europe is one of China's largest export markets.
Some also said European efforts to cut budget deficits will be constructive for the euro in the long run. (Additional reporting by Neal Armstrong in London; Editing by tktk)