* Some Asian stock markets 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, Nikkei stays firm
By Masayuki Kitano and Vidya Ranganathan
SINGAPORE, May 22 Some Asian stock markets rose
on Wednesday following a positive lead from Wall Street, with
Japan's Nikkei reaching a 5-1/2 year high and staying firm as
the Bank of Japan stood pat after unleashing massive stimulus
European stocks are expected to inch lower with markets
taking a breather from a month-long rally before U.S. Federal
Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony to Congress.
Financial spreadbetters expect Britain's FTSE 100 to
open down 0.16 percent, Germany's DAX to open 0.18
percent lower, and France's CAC 40 to shed 0.17 percent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
eased 0.1 percent, while South Korean shares
climbed 0.6 percent.
Tokyo's Nikkei broke above 15,500 for the first time
in over five years and rose 1.6 percent, bringing its gains so
far in 2013 to about 50 percent.
"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 stayed on firm footing, while 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 billion).
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 turned negative
earlier, as 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 141.90, up 0.01 point on the day
but 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 Bernanke testifies before Congress later on Wednesday.
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 102.62
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 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
held steady at 83.869, staying well off 3-year highs hit last
In commodities markets, Brent crude slipped 0.3
percent to $103.58 a barrel, while gold edged up 0.2
percent to $1,377.95 an ounce.