* Asian stocks firmer, buoyed by record highs on Wall St
* Fed officials play down speculation of ending stimulus
* BOJ keeps policy unchanged as expected
* JGB futures dip after BOJ, limited reaction in yen, Nikkei
By Masayuki Kitano and Vidya Ranganathan
SINGAPORE, May 22 Asian stocks rose on Wednesday
following a positive lead from Wall Street, with Japan's Nikkei
reaching a fresh 5-1/2 year high and clinging to its gains as
the Bank of Japan stood pat after unleashing massive stimulus
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
rose 0.1 percent, reversing some of Tuesday's
0.4 percent decline. The South Korean market climbed 0.8
Tokyo's Nikkei gained 1.2 percent, breaking above
15,500 for the first time in over five years.
"The buying just doesn't stop," said Kenichi Hirano,
operating officer at Tachibana Securities.
"If the Nikkei gets above 15,500, volatility could increase,
trading could become choppy, but with foreigners still buying
Japanese shares the trend might still point upward for a while."
The Nikkei held on to its gains, and the yen moved little
against the dollar, after the Bank of Japan kept its monetary
policy unchanged as expected. The BOJ maintained its pledge to
increase base money, or cash and deposits at the central bank,
at an annual pace of 60 trillion to 70 trillion yen ($585-$682
Last month, the BOJ unleashed the world's most intense burst
of stimulus, promising to inject $1.4 trillion into the economy
to meet its pledge of achieving 2 percent inflation in roughly
Japanese government bond (JGB) futures fell after the BOJ
refrained from announcing any steps to stem a JGB market rout in
the past month and a half. Ten-year JGB futures last stood at
141.87, down 0.02 point on the day and down from 142.07
before the BOJ's decision.
The JGB market is keenly focused on what BOJ Governor
Haruhiko Kuroda will say about the recent fall in JGB prices and
rise in bond yields in a news conference later on Wednesday.
Stock markets took heart after two senior Federal Reserve
officials dampened market speculation that the U.S. central bank
might start tapering its stimulus programme this year.
That helped the Dow and the S&P 500 close at
new all-time highs on Tuesday.
Markets will be looking for more clues on the Fed's next
move when Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before Congress later
His remarks will be followed by the release of minutes of
the last Fed meeting, which economists expect to give further
details of how it will eventually manage the exit from
The dollar inched up 0.1 percent versus the yen to 102.56
yen, with investors lacking conviction before Bernanke's
Westpac currency strategist Sean Callow said he expected the
dollar to drop towards 100 yen over the next few days or weeks.
"Bernanke should help it on its way but we may need soft
payrolls data in early June to confirm this," he said.
Callow said yen weakness was still driven heavily by
speculative positioning, and Japanese demand for foreign bonds
was still small. A stronger economy would encourage Japanese to
keep money at home and possibly plough more into the domestic
stocks, he said.
"Moreover, we view the relative success of Abenomics into
2014 as positive for yen, not negative," he said.
Recent economic data has been encouraging and the Nikkei has
soared in response to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's aggressive
growth strategy, termed "Abenomics".
Against a broader basket of currencies, the dollar
was down 0.1 percent at 83.793, staying well off 3-year highs
hit last week.
In commodities markets, Brent crude slipped 0.3
percent to $103.57 a barrel, while gold was little
changed at $1,375.69 an ounce.