The dollar dipped on Tuesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dampened speculation of an early U.S. interest rate rise, while Asian shares steadied as investors took a breather after recent gains.
European shares were set to be little changed on opening, according to financial spreadbetters, while U.S. equity futures also pointed to a flat start on Wall Street.
The dollar <.DXY> eased 0.2 percent against a basket of major currencies after Bernanke said the U.S. economy faced formidable headwinds including tight credit conditions, cooling expectations for an early rate rise which were prompted by promising U.S. jobs data on Friday.
The Fed was sticking to a pledge to keep rates at exceptionally low levels for an extended period, Bernanke said.
Asian shares recovered early losses as investors were both relieved that the United States was not about to accelerate an upturn in the global interest rate cycle, but concerned about the outlook for the world's biggest economy and Asia's leading export market.
Japan's Nikkei <.N225> dipped 0.3 percent after hitting a six-week closing high on Monday, as investors took profits on shares of exporters. Shipping company stocks also lost ground after the Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index <.BADI>, which tracks rates to ship dry commodities, fell for the first time in four days.
Markets were little fazed by news that the Japanese government had finalized a 7.2 trillion yen ($80.6 billion) stimulus package, slightly more than its original plan.
The stimulus news had been mostly factored in as the increase was almost due to pressure from the market, said Masaru Hamasaki, a senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management in Japan.
Tokyo also said it was closely watching exchange rate movements as the yen edged up to 88.94 to the dollar from 89.53 late in New York trade.
DUBAI SHARES SKID
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was virtually unchanged.
Investors are becoming more cautious as the year-end draws near and the price of risk is rising, according to the VIX fear factor index <.VIX>, which rose 4 percent overnight.
Asian investors will be especially careful to ensure they hold on to gains as the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index has rallied 66 percent this year, analysts say.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index <.HSI> was down 0.6 percent and banking giant HSBC Holdings <0005.HK>
The Middle East conglomerate is talking with HSBC and other creditors this week and a Dubai newspaper said on Tuesday that they had set a new date for $3.5 million in debts maturing on December 14.
Dubai's leading share index <.DFMGI> skidded 5.5 percent in early trade to a 21-week low on continued nervousness about financial stability.
Gold rebounded to $1,160 an ounce from $1,157 at the New York close as the dollar lost ground, while oil prices edged above $74 a barrel after sliding 2 percent on Monday, but continued to be restrained by concern about the outlook for global demand, analysts said.
U.S. President Barack Obama is due to make a speech at 11:25 a.m. EST when he will lay out proposals to combat double-digit unemployment, although they are unlikely to move markets, analysts said.
Asian currencies, hurt overnight along with other riskier currencies by news that Standard & Poor's had put Greece on negative credit watch, rebounded as the dollar slipped on receding U.S. rate rise expectations.
The Australian dollar bounced back to as high as $0.9165 from an overnight low of $0.9054.
It is back to the status quo, said Richard Grace, chief currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.
This means U.S. yields are likely to stay fairly unattractive for some period and that should give a boost to currencies like the Aussie.
The Korean won, however, weakened against the dollar as investors remained wary of possible intervention by the authorities.
(Additional reporting by Anirban Nag in Sydney and Elaine Lies in Tokyo; Editing by Kazunori Takada)