By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares were pressured on Thursday, undermined by an overnight pullback in global equities as investors assessed the implications of a potential softening of the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus program.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> was barely changed, staying barely above Friday's five-week low of 464.99.</.miapj0000pus>
Australian shares <.axjo> fell 0.3 percent while South Korean shares <.ks11> opened down 0.1 percent.</.ks11></.axjo>
The Nikkei stock average <.n225> opened down 1.8 percent.<.t></.t></.n225>
"Volatility will likely persist for another few weeks until June 14, when June Nikkei futures and options settle," said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.
The dollar remained broadly pressured, as Wall Street retreated on fears that strength in the U.S. economy could lead the Fed to scale down its massive stimulus program, and as U.S. Treasury yields eased from multi-month highs on Wednesday.
The dollar fell to its lowest since May 10 of 100.585 yen early in Asia on Thursday.
The dollar index <.dxy> measured against a basket of six key currencies inched down 0.13 percent to 83.552, moving away from its highest since July 2010 of 84.498 reached on May 23.</.dxy>
Hiroshi Maeba, head of FX trading Japan for UBS in Tokyo, pointed to a sense of uneasiness when both U.S. equities and Treasury yields jumped earlier this week, which suggested stocks were due for a correction, as views of a potential shift in Fed policy as the U.S. economy recovers justified a rise in yields more than in equities.
"The dollar is undergoing adjustments as other markets sort out this strange situation. But the U.S. economy is resilient, and if U.S. yields are rising as a result of positive growth outlook, then equities will eventually stabilize. In a broader scope, there is no change in a trend for dollar buying and selling of the yen and the Swiss francs," Maeba said.
The dollar may be capped around 101.50 yen during Asian business hours on Thursday, but a drop below 101 yen would offer good dip-buying opportunities, he said, adding that the dollar's limited drop of about 3 yen during last week's extreme volatile in Japanese government bond and stock markets underscored the U.S. currency's long-term bullish outlook.
The CBOE Volatility index <.vix>, which measures expected volatility in the Standard & Poor's 500 index <.spx> over the next 30 days, hit a five-week high on Wednesday before closing up 2.4 percent.</.spx></.vix>
Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields eased to 2.12 percent on Wednesday, having reached a 13-month high of 2.24 percent earlier this week.
Treasury yields have come under pressure after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that the U.S. central bank may decide to taper its program of buying Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities in the next few Fed policy meetings if data shows the economy is gaining traction.
Investors will keep a close eye on upcoming data including the week's jobless claims number and first-quarter gross domestic product due later in the session.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on Wednesday cut its global growth forecasts, saying the recession-hit euro zone will fall further behind a generally improving United States and a rebounding Japan this year.
Japan's capital flows data on Thursday showed foreign investors remained net buyers of Japanese stocks for the week ending on May 25 while Japanese investors sold a net 1.117 trillion yen of foreign bonds in the same period.
Demand worries weighed on commodities, with U.S. crude futures easing 0.2 percent to $92.91 a barrel early in Asia on Thursday.
Asset returns in 2013: http://link.reuters.com/dub25t
(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo; Editing by Eric Meijer)