By Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian share markets were mixed on Wednesday, with Australian equities dented by weakness in mining firms while Tokyo stocks surged to a 5-1/2-year high as Japanese exporters rallied after the yen's recent slide.
The yen hovered near a 4-1/2-year low versus the dollar set on Tuesday, with yen bears remaining largely in control since the Japanese currency's slide accelerated after the Bank of Japan's April 4 launch of drastic monetary stimulus.
The dollar eased 0.2 percent to 102.21 yen, but was not far from Tuesday's high of around 102.40 yen, the greenback's strongest level since October 2008.
Japan's Nikkei share average climbed above the psychologically key 15,000 threshold for the first time since January 2008, getting a boost from the weak yen, which helps Japanese exporters.
Analysts said strength in overseas shares was causing funds to flow into the Japanese market despite the fast pace of gains, although some investors were also taking profits on sectors sensitive to rising long-term interest rates.
"The sectors which rose on the back of the government's reflationary policy are prone to profit-taking as these sectors greatly outperformed earlier," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities.
The Nikkei jumped 2.3 percent to 15,096.97 <.n225>.</.n225>
Real estate shares and financials underperformed, however, with Mitsui Fudosan Co shedding 3.5 percent.
The 10-year cash JGB yield touched a peak of 0.920 percent, its highest level in more than a year, with JGBs hit by the yen's persistent weakness and strength in Tokyo shares.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> eased 0.2 percent to 480.30, while South Korean shares shed 0.2 percent <.ks11>.</.ks11></.miapj0000pus>
Australian shares <.axjo> fell 0.8 percent as miners deepened their losses on weaker metal prices, with Rio Tinto Ltd falling 3.0 percent.</ .axjo>
Some market players expect investor appetite for risk to remain fairly solid given recent signs of an improving U.S. economy.
"A combination of further improvement of economic performance and low inflation in the U.S. should keep risk appetite buoyant and support the USD on higher yields," said Anthony Lam, strategist at Credit Agricole in a note.
Data this week showed U.S. retail sales rose unexpectedly in April, underpinning the dollar which could gain further if upcoming U.S. economic data also points to a recovery.
U.S. import prices fell in April due to a drop in oil costs, a positive sign for household finances that also indicated benign inflation pressures.
The dollar has rallied broadly over the past couple of weeks as better-than-expected jobs data coupled with a recent decline in the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid, pointed to a strengthening labor market.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of currencies, last stood at 83.608 <.dxy>, staying near Tuesday's 10-month high of 83.687, the greenback's highest level since last July.</.dxy>
In commodity markets, spot gold held steady at $1,425.86 an ounce. Gold is still down for the week, as economic optimism and record high U.S. equities lessened its appeal as a safe haven.
U.S. crude oil futures gained 0.2 percent to $94.35 a barrel and Brent rose 0.1 percent to $102.70.
U.S. stocks <.dji><.spx> rallied to record highs on Tuesday, continuing an ascent driven by the Federal Reserve's easy monetary policy, though investors' focus has turned to when the Fed may start to rein in its bond-purchase program.</.spx></.dji>
(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo; Editing Jacqueline Wong)