Foreign exchange markets, marking time until the Commerce Department's release today of the monthly trade figures for November, paid little attention yesterday to the surprise announcement Wednesday that the United States is now willing to dip into its official reserves to prevent the dollar from falling further against the Japanese yen.

In markets in Europe and New York, the dollar moved in a narrow range in light trading, ending down fractionally against other major currencies. By the end of New York trading, the dollar was quoted at 126.17 yen, down from 127.23 yen late Wednesday, and at 1.6295 West German marks, down from 1.6383.

In earlier trading in Tokyo, the dollar closed at 126.95 yen, up slightly from Wednesday's final 126.30. The Tokyo market will be closed today for a national holiday.

In a joint statement Wednesday, President Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita revealed an agreement reached earlier this month under which additional "resources" could be committed, through market intervention, to bolster the dollar.

Administration and Japanese officials explained that to make sure the United States would have adequate supplies of yen available to buy dollars in the market, the United States could sell some of its $7.2 billion worth of special drawing rights (SDRs) on deposit in the International Monetary Fund to Japan, in exchange for the Japanese currency.

To emphasize the importance the two leaders attach to this new weapon against a dollar decline, Takeshita referred to it again in a speech yesterday to the National Press Club.

"We are thus showing the resolute determination of Japan and the United States to maintain stability in currency exchange markets and the value of the dollar," Takeshita said.

But the exchange markets didn't get what they really would have liked -- a commitment by the Reagan administration to acquire yen and other foreign currencies by selling "Reagan bonds" -- U.S. Treasury bonds denominated in foreign money. That would also transfer to the United States -- from foreign investors -- the exchange rate risk of a declining dollar.

Treasury officials remain firmly opposed to "Reagan bonds." "That's a last resort, and we aren't there yet," an official said. Presumably, a U.S. commitment to sell bonds denominated in other currencies would have to be accompanied by higher interest rates.

On that issue, H.O. Ruding, Dutch finance minister and chairman of the IMF's Interim Committee, said yesterday that higher interest rates do not appear to be on the U.S. agenda. After a meeting at the IMF with Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Ruding told reporters that although he strongly urges a higher interest rate policy here, the United States is not willing to go in that direction.

"I don't think that this would lead to a U.S. economic recession," Ruding said. But he claimed that Europe faces a recession if the dollar is allowed to drop further.

American officials vigorously disagree with Ruding. They contend that if Europe seeks to avert recession, it must dissuade West Germany from its current plan to boost tax rates. The German plan, said a U.S. official, "is incredible. They can't even see {how it works against} their own self-interest."

Officials hesitate to go public with their bitter feelings about West German economic policy, recalling that that tactic seemed to be counterproductive last fall prior to the stock market collapse. They are relying, instead, on the pressure being placed on the Germans within Europe.

The SDR-yen swap, essentially, is a bookkeeping transaction at the IMF, which issues the fully convertible paper asset. As of Nov. 30, the United States had $7.2 billion worth of SDRs in its account at the IMF. These, along with gold, foreign currencies and a separate reserve "position" in the IMF, make up the total financial reserves owned by the United States.

The SDRs are a composite unit based on the value of five main trading currencies -- U.S. dollars, yen, German marks, British pounds, and French francs.

Because the other currencies rise when the dollar falls, the SDR remains steadier than the dollar when the dollar is in a decline. The value of the SDR yesterday was $1.38470.

Normally, when the United States needs currencies to use in intervention procedures, the New York Federal Reserve Bank gets them through temporary "swap" arrangements with other central banks.

But by announcing the SDR/yen arrangement, the United States signaled financial markets that it would have an ample supply of yen, even though it had sharply run down the existing supply during heavy intervention to support the dollar this month.

Moreover, by tapping its SDR stockpile, the United States is saying to the foreign exchange speculators that it is willing to dig into its official reserves to support the dollar -- a more permanent arrangement than a mere swap. (Later on, yen can be returned to Japan for SDRs.)

Washington Post staff writer Paul Blustein contributed to this report.