TOKYO Asian shares struggled to find their footing on Tuesday after downbeat U.S. economic data contributed to an uninspiring session on Wall Street and pressured the dollar.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged up 0.05 percent after wavering for most of the early session.
Australian shares slumped 0.3 percent, in their first day of trade following the long Easter weekend that also closed many markets in Europe.
Japan's Nikkei .N225 skidded 0.8 percent in early trading, not helped by mixed economic data released before the market opened.
Japanese household spending rose 1.2 percent in February from a year earlier in price-adjusted real terms, in contrast with the median forecast for a 1.5 percent fall.
But the country's jobless rate inched up to 3.3 percent, and retail sales rose just 0.5 percent in February from a year earlier, falling short of the median forecast for a 1.7 percent increase.
U.S. data released on Monday also showed signs of weakness, with consumer spending barely rising last month and inflation retreating. That suggested the Federal Reserve could remain cautious about raising interest rates this year even as the labor market rapidly tightens.
Against the yen, the dollar edged down slightly to 113.38 yen JPY=, moving away from its overnight high of 113.69.
The euro was steady at $1.1196 EUR=.
Speculation of more monetary stimulus and talk that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might delay an unpopular sales tax hike and call a snap election kept the yen under pressure, sending it to two-week lows against the dollar and euro overnight.
Despite the divergence in monetary policy expectations, with the Fed still seen on track to hike rates this year and the Bank of Japan expected to take additional stimulus steps, the yen remained hamstrung by uncertainty over whether the BOJ will cut interest rates deeper into negative territory.
"We're still experiencing the hangover from the BOJ's negative interest rate policy, which is driving a lot of safe-haven flows," said Jennifer Vail, head of fixed-income research at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Portland, Oregon.
"The market is waiting to see if a further move into negative territory is going to be part of policymaker's toolbox," she said.
Crude oil extended overnight losses. Brent LCOc1 was down 0.2 percent at $40.19 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 fell 0.2 percent to $39.33.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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Published Date: Mar 29, 2016 07:15 AM | Updated Date: Mar 29, 2016 07:15 AM