TOKYO/SINGAPORE Asian stocks retreated on Tuesday as investors braced for central bank policy meetings in the United States and Japan this week.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei slipped 1.1 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled 0.5 percent. But Chinese shares were flat, with the CSI 300 little changed and the Shanghai Composite slipping 0.1 percent.
Investors are cautious about buying riskier assets ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting starting later on Tuesday.
A surprise drop in new U.S. home sales data for March published on Monday supported a view of anaemic U.S. economic growth, which may keep the Fed from raising interest rates.
In fact, markets sees no chance of a rate increase at this week's meeting and are pricing in just about a one in five chance of a move at the next meeting on June 14-15.
Yet, Fed officials have repeatedly said a hike in June is on the cards.
"Even dovish policy makers such as (Boston Fed President Eric) Rosengren are saying markets expectations are too low. And it is not hard to imagine many at the Fed feel current market rates are too low," said Tomoaki Shishido, fixed income strategist at Nomura Securities.
"So the Fed may try to urge markets to price in higher rates. On balance, we are more likely to have a hawkish surprise than a dovish surprise," he added.
Ahead of the Fed's meeting, the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield stood at 1.8968 percent, easing from a four-week high of 1.914 percent seen on Monday.
U.S. stocks fell on Monday as weaker oil prices weighed on energy shares, with the S&P 500 dipping 0.18 percent to 2,088, slipping further from a 4-1/2-month closing high of 2,102 hit last Wednesday.
Oil prices recovered on Tuesday, pushed up by a weaker dollar and a flood of new cash into the market, but analysts warned of further weakness as producers continue to battle for customers in the Middle East.
"The biggest bear risk to the oil market right now is that Iran's ramp-up accelerates and then that Saudi Arabia does the same," analysts at Citibank said.
U.S. crude rose 0.9 percent to $43.04 per barrel but remained down 1.6 percent this week.
Brent crude advanced 1 percent to $44.92 per barrel, but is still 0.4 percent below its closing price on Friday.
Both remain off their five-month highs hit last week.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia unveiled ambitious plans to transform its oil-dependent economy, centring on a partial privatisation of state oil company Saudi Aramco, which has crude reserves of more than 15 percent of global oil deposits.
The company is expected to be valued at over $2 trillion, more than five times the size of Exxon Mobil, ahead of the sale of less than 5 percent of it through an initial public offering (IPO).
In the currency market, the dollar retreated against many major currencies while keeping its upper hand against emerging economy currencies.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, slid 0.2 percent to 94.682.
The dollar also slipped to 111.06 yen from three-week high of 111.90 touched early on Monday.
The yen weakened sharply on Friday on a report that the Bank of Japan is considering cutting rates at which the central bank lends money to banks. But doubts are growing about how effective such a measure would be in lifting the moribund economy.
The Bank of Japan will make its policy announcement on Thursday.
The euro held steady at $1.1268.
The British pound held near a 10-week high as bets on a Brexit eased after U.S. President Barack Obama voiced his support for Britain's staying in the European Union.
The pound last stood at $1.4503 after climbing as high as $1.4520 on Monday, its highest since mid-February.
The dollar's weakness and investor demand for safe haven assets gave gold a boost.
Spot gold rose 0.1 percent to $1,239 an ounce, building on its 0.5 percent gain in the previous session.
(Editing by Kim Coghill and Simon Cameron-Moore)
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Updated Date: Apr 26, 2016 08:30 AM