* Spreadbetters forecast higher open for European stocks
* MSCI Asia-Pacific index up 0.6 pct, Nikkei down 0.1 pct
* Asia equities retain upbeat mood from European and US
* Dollar dips, focus NOW on Fed's policy meeting minutes
* Crude near 1-1/2-month highs on hopes for tighter supply
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, Feb 22 Asian stocks rose on Wednesday,
joining a record-setting session for global markets as investors
cheered upbeat factory activity in Europe and solid earnings on
But the dollar dipped, reversing an earlier rise made on
hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials.
Spreadbetters expected the boon for equities to extend into
the European day, predicting a higher open for Britain's FTSE
, Germany's DAX and France's CAC.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
rose 0.6 percent, taking its cues from the world
stock index rising to an all-time peak
South Korea's Kospi added 0.15 percent, Singapore
advanced 0.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng
rose 0.9 percent. Japan's Nikkei <.N225. bucked the trend and
shed 0.1 percent.
The Dow rose 0.6 percent on Tuesday to notch a record
closing high for the eighth straight session, lifted by strong
earnings reports from Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
That followed a strong showing in European equities, which
were boosted by upbeat German and French factory activity data,
with Germany's DAX rising to its highest in nearly two years.
The euro, however, has not followed suit as the currency
markets focused more on potential political turbulence in the
The common currency was up a modest 0.1 percent at $1.0544
after losing more than 0.7 percent the previous day.
Polls suggesting improving support for far-right French
presidential candidate Marine Le Pen have undermined sentiment
and weighed on the common currency.
The dollar had risen overnight following hawkish comments
from Cleveland and Philadelphia Fed Presidents Loretta Mester
and Patrick Harker.
Mester expressed comfort at raising rates at this point,
while Harker reportedly said a March rate hike was on the table.
Financial markets are waiting on the Fed's Jan. 31-Feb. 1
policy meeting minutes due later in the day for fresh hints on
the central bank's stance towards interest rates.
The focus will be on the Fed's economic assessment in the
minutes, which should emphasise a recent uptick in economic
data, although the market may still remain sceptical about the
chances of a near-term rate hike, said Christopher Wong, senior
FX strategist for Maybank.
The dollar slipped 0.2 percent to 113.485 yen after
climbing to a five-day high of 113.780 overnight.
The greenback's index against a basket of major currencies
was a shade lower at 101.340 after gaining 0.5 percent
the previous day.
A recent big mover in currencies was the Mexican peso
which rallied against the dollar on news that the
country's central bank will offer up to $20 billion in currency
hedges to tame market volatility.
The Mexican currency surged 1.7 percent against the dollar
overnight, breaking the psychological level of 20 per dollar or
the first time since Donald Trump's November U.S. election
victory. Hurt by Trump's threats to impose trade barriers on
Mexico and hit by the prospect of higher U.S. rates, the peso
weakened to a record low of roughly 22 per dollar in January.
"This is the most important change in the approach to FX
policy since the Tequila Crisis," said Marco Oviedo, an
economist at Barclays in Mexico City, referring to the economic
crisis that pushed Mexico to adopt a free-floating peso in 1994.
The Australian dollar, which has enjoyed steady gains this
year on country's relatively high yields and the rise in the
price of iron ore, climbed 0.3 percent to $0.7695.
In commodities, crude extended gains from the previous day
when it touched 1-1/2-month peaks on OPEC's optimism for greater
compliance with its deal with other producers including Russia
to curb output.
Brent crude rose 0.4 percent to $56.91 a barrel and
U.S. crude added 0.3 percent to $54.51 a barrel.
(Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in Singapore; Michael
O'Boyle, ALexandra Alper and Paulina Osorio in Mexico City;
Editing by Kim Coghill & Shri Navaratnam)