GLOBAL MARKETS-Bernanke drives Asian shares to a near 5-wk high, dollar steady
* Asian shares rise after Bernanke's comments
* Dollar holds on to modest overnight gains
TOKYO, July 18 (Reuters) - Asian shares inched up to a near five-week high on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pledged to keep monetary policy easy for the foreseeable future, while the dollar held on to modest overnight gains.
Although Bernanke stuck to a timeline that he first outlined in June to wind down the Fed's $85 billion a month bond-buying programme, he went out of his way to stress that nothing was set in stone.
"There is something in these comments for everybody," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington. "Bernanke has done a good job of leaving himself plenty of manoeuvre room in terms of policy."
Bernanke's remarks came as the Fed's Beige Book report of anecdotal information on business activity showed the U.S. economy continued to grow at a modest to moderate pace in June and early July, but U.S. housing data was disappointing.
The dollar dipped 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies, but it was steady at 99.555 yen after gaining 0.5 percent overnight versus the Japanese currency.
The euro was also steady at $1.3117.
Asian shares, as measured by the MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan index, added 0.2 percent, near a five-week intraday high in the previous session, while both Tokyo's Nikkei and Australian shares gained 0.5 percent.
Toshiyuki Kanayama, senior market analyst at Monex Inc in Tokyo, said he expected gains in the Nikkei to be capped by Intel Corp's weak outlook.
Intel cut its full-year revenue forecast and said it was scaling back capital spending as it adjusted to a painful contraction in personal computer sales and economic weakness in China, one of its biggest markets.
Underscoring worries over China's economic slowdown, Japanese manufacturers' mood also worsened in July for the first time in eight months, a Reuters poll showed.
In the commodity markets, gold stabilised after falling 1.3 percent on Wednesday, while copper prices added 0.2 percent but remained below $7,000 a tonne after falling 1.5 percent in the previous session.
Brent crude prices dipped 0.1 percent to around $108.50 a barrel after gaining 0.6 percent on Wednesday after data from U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a fall in American crude stocks.