Asian shares fell on Tuesday for a second consecutive session as investors worried that a recent rally may be overdone, though oil prices extended gains ahead of data this week expected to show a fall in U.S. crude inventories.
The euro edged higher against the dollar, recovering from falls on Monday when Standard & Poor's became the second credit agency this year to cut Ireland's AAA sovereign rating.
The S&P action reinforced concerns about countries that are becoming more indebted as they spend heavily to spur flagging economic growth or rescue their financial systems. S&P had roiled markets last month after cutting its outlook on Britain's AAA rating to negative.
With expectations that the global economy has passed its worst already well priced in, the focus has shifted toward how any recovery will shape up, while other investors are looking longer-term and worrying about potential inflation down the line.
That is bound to give investors pause after a stock market rally that has sent indexes such as Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> up about 40 percent since its year low in early March and the MSIC Asia-Pacific index of stocks outside Japan up about 60 from its 2009 low.
There's a sense in the market right now that the Nikkei may be a bit overheated, a bit overbought, said Noritsugu Hirakawa, a strategist at Okasan Securities.
We have some key global economic indicators due out later this week, including U.S. retail sales, and if these confirm the growing impression that the global economy is improving, we're likely to see the Nikkei shoot up through 10,000.
The Nikkei average was down 0.2 percent, though still just 1.5 percent away from breaching the key 10,000-level for the first time since October.
The MSCI index of regional stocks outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was down 0.7 percent, after having fallen 2.1 percent on Monday.
Taiwan's main index <.TWII> was among the biggest decliners of the day with a 2.3 percent fall, while benchmarks in Hong Kong <.HSI> and Shanghai <.SSEC> fell more than 1 percent each. Other major markets posted more modest losses.
U.S. stocks rebounded from early losses to end flat overnight. <.N>
MENDING GLOBAL ECONOMY
Recent indicators continue to signal that the global economy is on the mend.
The economic outlook for the OECD area declined at a slower pace in April, an OECD survey said on Monday, and there were stronger indications that the downturn may have hit bottom in Canada, France, Italy and Britain.
The question is now how strong or fast any recovery would be.
The IMF and World Bank said on Monday the path to global economic recovery is rife with risks and the onus is on policymakers to avoid runaway inflation and other pitfalls that could derail the process.
Investors are also concerned about the financial strains on countries that are spending heavily to counter the effects of recession, especially in the United States, which last month saw the dollar and Treasuries fall amid fears it would also lost its AAA credit rating at some point.
Ireland lost its AAA rating from S&P on Monday because of the agency's concerns about the soaring cost of bailing out the country's banking sector. The country had already lost the coveted top credit rating from Fitch in April.
The euro, which on Monday dropped to its lowest against the dollar since late May following the Ireland downgrade, edged higher in Asian trade on Tuesday, and was last at $1.3907 dollar from its dip to $1.3806 on Monday.
The dollar gained 0.2 percent against a basket of major currencies <.DXY>. Data on Friday showing smaller-than-expected U.S. job losses has helped spark gains in the U.S. currency from recent falls.
Investors were still willing to chase the rally in oil prices, however, ahead of data on Wednesday that is forecast to show U.S. crude stocks have fallen by 400,000 barrels last week, according to a Reuters poll.
U.S. crude futures were up 43 cents at $68.52 a barrel after having touched a seven-month high above $70 on Friday.