* Dollar slips from Friday's 4-1/2 year high vs yen
* Asian shares firmer after Friday's Wall Street rally
* MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan rises 1.1 percent
By Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE, May 20 The yen edged higher on Monday
after Japan's economics minister said further weakness in the
yen could harm households, while Asian shares rose in response
to U.S. equities rallying on upbeat economic data.
The dollar fell to as low as 102.00 yen earlier on Monday,
pulling away from Friday's high of 103.32 yen, the greenback's
highest level versus the yen since October 2008.
The dollar later pared some of its losses, and last stood at
102.69 yen, down 0.5 percent on the day.
Comments by Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari over the
weekend spurred buy backs of the yen, market players said.
"People say the excessively strong yen has corrected quite a
bit. If the yen continues to weaken steadily from here, negative
effects on people's lives will emerge," Economics Minister Akira
Amari told a Sunday talk show.
The dollar, which gained last week on speculation that the
U.S. Federal Reserve could soon begin to rein in its bond-buying
programme, remained within sight of a near three-year high set
on Friday versus a basket of currencies.
"It was on the back of those Amari comments ... especially
after the big rally in dollar/yen on Friday. But thin liquidity
is exacerbating the moves," said Sue Trinh, senior currency
strategist at RBC in Hong Kong, referring to the dollar's
earlier drop against the yen.
Asian stock markets rose broadly, boosted by U.S. equities
hitting record closing highs on Friday as encouraging economic
data prompted investors to buy into growth companies.
In the stock market, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific
shares outside Japan rose 1.1 percent, with
Australian shares rising about 1 percent.
Thai equities rose 0.6 percent, staying firm even
after data showed Thailand's economy shrank 2.2 percent in the
first three months of 2013 from the previous quarter.
Japan's Nikkei share average touched its highest intraday
level since December 2007, and was last up 1.6 percent.
"Strength in the U.S. market and signs of a recovery in the
U.S. economy are serving as a tailwind to the Nikkei's further
gains. It's promising that the yen is staying below 100 yen to
the dollar," said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at
Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.
The dollar index, which measures the dollar's value against
a basket of currencies, stood at 84.112. On Friday, the
dollar index had risen to 84.371, its strongest level since July
The dollar has been buoyed by speculation that the Fed might
taper its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases later this year.
Such chatter had increased after John Williams, president of
the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said on Thursday the
Fed could begin easing back on the monetary gas pedal this
summer and end bond buying late this year.
Gold tumbled 1.5 percent to a one-month low of $1,338.95
earlier on Monday, pressured by expectations the Fed
could soon halt its asset buying programme. Gold last fetched
Brent crude edged up 0.1 percent to $104.70 a