Asian shares fell on Wednesday after a dip in U.S. consumer confidence revived worries about the pace of economic recovery, while the Australian dollar hit a two-week low as inflation data pared bets on an aggressive rate rise.
U.S. equity futures were down 0.1 percent and European shares were also set to dip, with financial spreadbetters expecting markets in London, Frankfurt and Paris to open between 0.3 and 0.6 percent lower
The Conference Board's weaker-than-expected U.S. consumer confidence index for October raised concern about the U.S. earnings potential of Asian companies, driving shares lower across the region.
The U.S. consumer confidence news highlighted worries about the U.S. economic recovery in the coming months, a dealer at a Japanese bank in Tokyo, said. With this view, investors are prone to cut their bets on assets such as stocks, commodities and high-yielding currencies.
Japan's Nikkei index fell 1.4 percent as a government official warned the economy must try to avoid hitting a second bottom and Japanese retail sales in September fell for a 13th month.
Shares in Honda Motor Co, however, surged 3.3 percent after the world's seventh-biggest carmaker surprised by nearly tripling its annual profit forecasts on Tuesday.
The Australian dollar first edged up, but later retreated, after last quarter's inflation topped forecasts, yet was not seen as alarming enough to warrant a 50 basis point rate rise at a central bank meeting on November 3.
This number's just not bad enough to trigger anything other than a quarter point rate rise, said Stephen Walters, chief economist at JP Morgan in Australia.
The Australian dollar rose to as high as $0.9208 immediately after the inflation data but then fell to a two-week low of $0.9072.
Worries about U.S. consumer confidence encouraged a shift out of riskier currencies including the Korean won. It hit a one-month low at 1,195.5 per dollar, brushing off news that South Korea's balance of payments surplus in September soared nearly 60 percent to a near five-year high.
Indonesia's central bank intervened to prop up the rupiah as it hit a one-month low at 9,650 to the dollar.
The head of China's national pension fund said on Wednesday that the dollar-dominated global monetary system would gradually shift to a system led by the dollar, euro and Asian currencies including the Chinese yuan.
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan was down 2 percent while the Thomson Reuters index of regional shares was 1.4 percent lower.
Shares in Korea slumped 2.4 percent as investors became nervous ahead of key earnings and economic data this week.
Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest memory chip maker, issued a strong mid-term outlook but its shares fell 3 percent in the market slide.
Shipbuilders also suffered after the Financial Times reported that leading German container shipper Peter Dohle Schiffahrts was seeking aid from the German government. That sent shares in Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's biggest shipbuilder, down 4.5 percent.
Investor sentiment across Asia was cautious amid concern about the pace of recovery in the United States although a survey by The Nielsen Company on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer confidence has improved for the first time since early 2007.
U.S. durable goods data, due later on Wednesday, will give further clues on the state of U.S. consumption.
In Hong Kong, shares of casino operator Wynn Macau plunged 8.3 percent, tracking a 10 percent dive in shares of its U.S. parent Wynn Resorts in U.S. trade, after a downbeat outlook from the company.
The oil price stabilized at around $79.40 a barrel after rising overnight on industry data showing a large draw-down in U.S. crude inventories last week.
Japanese government bonds inched up with futures coming off a two-month low after strong demand for new U.S. two-year notes lifted U.S. Treasuries.
December JGB 10-year futures climbed 0.04 point to 137.90 after hitting a two-month low of 138.82 on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO and the SYDNEY newsroom; editing by Tomasz Janowski)