Asian shares mostly fell Tuesday as investors wait for the Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan's next policy meetings later in the week, while oil prices gave up early gains to extend the previous day's losses.
Having piled up healthy gains last week, analysts said traders were moving cautiously as they hope for some forward guidance on the Fed's policy plans, while the corporate earnings season also kicks off.
"Overall we're in wait-and-see mode," Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co. in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.
"It's easier for investors to lighten their positions so damage will be limited in case something unexpected happens in US and Japanese monetary policy."
After the turmoil across world markets at the start of the year, the Fed lowered its expectations for rate hikes this year saying it would closely watch overseas developments before moving.Traders have predicted the next rise will be towards the end of the year but every utterance from the bank will be pored over for clues about its thinking.
Asian markets were mostly down.
Japan's Nikkei index ended 0.5 percent lower, with the yen holding Monday's gains against the dollar despite speculation that the country's central bank will ramp up its stimulus after a two-day policy meeting Thursday.
The dollar was at 110.88 yen, having pushed towards 112 yen at the end of last week on speculation the Bank of Japan will unveil fresh measures.
The BoJ has been tipped to further ease monetary policy after this month's double earthquake in the south of Japan that led to the closure of factories at a time when the economy is already stuttering.
- Mitsubishi crash -
Wednesday sees the start of the earnings season, with Sony and Nintendo among a slate of big-name firms set this week to report results for the fiscal year through March.Among other markets Hong Kong was down 0.6 percent in the afternoon and Sydney lost 0.3 percent while Singapore shed 0.8 percent and Wellington lost more than one percent.
However, Shanghai added 0.6 by the close after losing about four percent last week, while Seoul saw a late rally to close up 0.3 percent.
The two main crude contracts -- West Texas Intermediate and Brent -- retreated in the afternoon, having been up more than one percent in the morning.
The losses came after Monday's dive -- fuelled by a report saying Saudi Arabia was close to finishing a key oilfield expansion to help it boost output -- as investors await a US stiokpiles report later in the week.
In Tokyo trade Mitsubishi Motors plunged almost 10 percent, a fifth straight hammering that has seen it give up more than 50 percent and wiped billions off its valuation owing to a fuel-efficiency scandal.
The latest collapse came after a report that the carmaker may have used fuel-efficiency tests inconsistent with government guidelines since the 1990s.
- Key figures around 0700 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 17,353.28 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 2,964.70 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.6 percent at 21,180.31
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1268 from $1.1266 Monday
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.96 yen from 111.21 yen
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 17,977.24 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,260.92 (close)