(Reuters) - Asian shares and the euro fell Friday as caution set in ahead of key U.S. jobs data, which will offer more clues over the state of the world's largest economy, while Greek debt restructuring talks dragged on and undermined sentiment.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> fell 0.3 percent, off a five-month high hit on Thursday, but looked set to record a fifth successive weekly gain. Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> fell 0.2 percent.
Australian shares lost steam on weak commodity prices, although news that commodities trader Glencore and miner Xstrata are in talks on a $80 billion merger stirred interest.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to a better jobs market, and shifted market focus to nonfarm payrolls data for gauging the sustainability of U.S. economic recovery after recent reports raised hopes.
It does seem like there is a little bit of positioning ahead of tonight, it will be a big night for U.S. data and it will be a big influence on risk assets, the U.S. dollar as well, said Stan Shamu, market strategist IG Markets.
U.S. employers are expected to have added 150,000 jobs in January, compared with 200,000 the month before.
Shinichiro Kadota, a strategist at Barclays Capital in Tokyo, said since December numbers reflected a temporary rise in part-time jobs during the holiday season, a drop in January back to around 150,000 jobs would still suggest moderate recovery in the labor market.
The dollar was at 76.18 yen, keeping near a record low around 75.31 yen set on Oct. 31, when Japan intervened. The dollar was up 0.2 percent against the euro at $1.3120.
Spot gold fell 0.2 percent to around $1,755 an ounce while London copper sagged on caution and slow Chinese demand, heading for its first weekly loss in the past month.
The latest economic data from China, which showed the official Purchasing Managers Index for non-manufacturing sectors dipping to 52.9 in January from 56.0 in December, provided a further case for easing to support growth.
The current global economic environment is neither good nor bad, which tends to strengthen selective risk taking within a generally limited risk capacity, said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory Co.
Investors will likely hunt for assets which are seen to be undervalued and sell those deemed overvalued, he said, adding that energy, bonds and agriculture products appear to be cheap while base and precious metals look expensive.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Thursday he was seeing signs that some of the factors dampening U.S. business investment, including uncertainty surrounding European bank woes, might be waning. But he kept the option of further easing on the table.
Greece has kept hopes of a debt deal alive all this week but has pushed back the actual debt swap agreement needed to secure a crucial second batch of funds to prevent Athens from defaulting.
Euro zone finance ministers aim to agree a second financing package for Greece on Monday. A deal for Greece would include agreement on official new financing, the size of voluntary losses banks and other private bondholders are willing to accept and new reforms Athens must undertake.
Despite a lack of progress in the debt restructuring talks, sentiment continued to improve in European debt markets, which are feeling the effect of the European Central Bank's unprecedented funding provisions in December.
Spain and France drew healthy demand for their debt sales on Thursday, driving their funding costs lower.
Japanese government bond yields for 5-year and 20-year maturities hit their lowest in 10 weeks on Friday, supported by an accommodative global monetary stance.
Asian credit markets were steady, with spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment grade index barely changed on Friday.
Brent prices remained better bid than U.S. crude.
(Additional reporting by Amy Pyett in Sydney; Editing by Richard Pullin)