TOKYO: Asian shares slipped and the dollar inched higher in early Asian trade on Wednesday, as concerns about a possible US government shutdown and uncertainty about the US Federal Reserve's policy outlook made investors hesitant to take aggressive positions.
"Sentiment remained somewhat subdued as investors stayed cautious amid lingering uncertainty on the Fed's stance," analysts at Credit Agricole wrote in a note to clients.
"Adding to that uncertainty is the approaching deadlines for the US fiscal struggle and we expect the market to place increasing focus on that front going forward," they said.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
slipped about 0.1 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei stock average was down 0.2 per cent.
The dollar was narrowly higher against its Japanese currency, buying 98.76 yen, while it rose fractionally against a basket of six currencies to 80.588.
The euro was slightly down at $1.3472, with support cited at its August high of $1.3453, pressured by a disappointing German survey overnight.
The September Ifo survey of German business sentiment, released on Tuesday, showed a slight improvement from the previous month and touched a 17-month high, but still fell short of the consensus forecast.
The downbeat survey came a day after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank was prepared to do more to support the region's nascent recovery.
"It seems like an improvement in the euro zone economic data has stalled. In addition, now that Germany's election is over, the market could dust off the issues that had fallen out of focus, such as further aid to Greece," said Masafumi Yamamoto, forex strategist at Praevidentia Strategy.
On Wall Street on Tuesday, US stocks mostly ended lower, extending their slide to a fourth session. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.42 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index 0.25 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index managed a modest gain of 0.08 per cent.
Tea Party-backed US senators are threatening to stall a bill to fund the US Government.
New York Fed President William Dudley, in an interview on CNBC on Tuesday, defended the central bank's surprise decision last week to refrain from tapering its stimulus because the US economy was weaker than the Fed thought in June. Dudley, a known dove, said he "wouldn't rule out" a stimulus reduction later this year.
US economic data on Tuesday was mixed and lent credence to the Fed's decision to hold policy steady. US home prices gained in July, but consumer confidence slipped in September, underscoring the possibility that higher interest rates and a sluggish economy could brake the housing market recovery.
On the commodities front, copper futures edged up 0.2 per cent to $7,159.50, on track to snap a three-session losing streak fuelled by supply concerns and uncertainty about the Fed's policy outlook.
Oil prices firmed against a backdrop of hopeful signals that longstanding tensions in the Middle East could be thawing. US President Barack Obama on Tuesday cautiously embraced overtures from Iran's new president as the basis for a possible nuclear deal, but a failed effort to arrange a simple handshake between the two leaders underscored entrenched distrust that will be hard to overcome.
Front-month Brent crude for November delivery rose about 0.1 per cent to $108.79, while November US crude added 0.2 per cent to $103.37 a barrel.