* European seen opening lower, with exception of FTSE
* Japan's Nikkei touches new 7-week intraday high
* Draghi reinforces expectations of further ECB easing steps
* Market reaction limited to Ukraine airstrikes
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, May 27 Asian stocks eased slightly in a
timid session on Tuesday, while the euro steadied but remained
vulnerable after overnight comments from the European Central
Bank chief heightened expectations of easing steps in the euro
Spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open up
0.4 percent, as that market catches up after a Monday holiday.
They predicted Germany's DAX would open down 0.1
percent, after it hit a record high on Monday, and France's CAC
40 to start 0.4 percent lower.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
dipped about 0.2 percent, after opening higher,
as investors locked in profits following its rise to a one-year
high on Monday.
Much of the trading in Asia lacked energy reflecting the
lack of directional clues as U.S. and UK markets were closed
for holidays on Monday.
Japan's Nikkei stock average was a regional
standout, adding about 0.2 percent after marking its highest
intraday level since early April.
"Short covering has been continuing since last week's strong
China PMI data and U.S. housing data," said Norihiro Fujito,
senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley
Securities. "The main buyers are short-term investors like
derivatives players and hedge funds."
The holidays in the major markets crimped foreign exchange
volumes to less than half of their daily averages. While thin
conditions sometimes amplify market moves, major currency pairs
quietly stuck to recent ranges.
The euro last stood at $1.3653, slightly up on the
day but still not far from a three-month low of $1.3615 plumbed
on Monday. Against the yen, it added about 0.1 percent to 139.15
ECB chief Mario Draghi on Monday continued to hint at coming
measures, saying the ECB must be "particularly watchful" for any
negative price spiral in the euro zone, and that "more
pre-emptive action may be warranted."
Later on Tuesday, Draghi is scheduled to participate in an
armchair discussion in the final day of the ECB forum underway
Reuters reported earlier this month that the ECB is
preparing a package of policy options for its June 5 meeting. It
includes cuts in all its interest rates as well as targeted
measures aimed at boosting lending to smaller firms.
By contrast, current and former Japanese central bankers
familiar with internal discussions say an informal debate is
under way at the Bank of Japan on how to prepare for an eventual
exit from its massive quantitative easing programme.
The yen was steady against the dollar, which bought 101.92
and remained not far from its 1-1/2 week high of 102.05
marked on Monday.
"Recent falls in U.S. bond yields have put a brake on the
dollar. Still, on the whole, it's not like the U.S. economy is
losing momentum, so the yen will be under pressure," said Minori
Uchida, chief FX strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
Investors kept a wary eye on Ukraine, which launched air
strikes and a paratrooper assault against pro-Russian rebels who
seized an airport on Monday.
The escalation in the ongoing crisis was tempered by the
decisive win for billionaire Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine's
weekend presidential election, which many hope will help bring
some stability to the situation.
In commodities trading, U.S. crude futures were up
about 0.1 percent at $104.48 a barrel.
Spot gold was a touch lower at $1,288.65 an ounce.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange
edged to its highest in nearly three months as markets reopened
after a holiday weekend, underpinned by buying from China and on
growing expectations the ECB will easy policy next month. It was
last fetching $6,942.75 a tonne, up about 0.2 percent.
(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa and Hideyuki Sano in
Tokyo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)