The dollar lost ground on Wednesday after hitting a one-month high against a basket of currencies, while Asian stocks edged higher in muted trade ahead of central bank meetings that kept investors wary.
Oil fell for the first time in three days after a 2 percent surge on Tuesday and gold eased after hitting a record high, but the afterglow helped boost resource-linked shares.
Most investors turned their attention to the U.S. Federal Reserve, which ends its two-day meeting on Wednesday. While it is expected to keep interest rates unchanged, some in the market wonder if it might drop or alter its pledge to keep rates low for an extended period.
There is some speculation that they will soften their reference to 'extended period' and I agree that they'll have to do that soonish, yet I am not convinced they will do it at this meeting, said Adam Carr, senior economist at ICAP.
It's the ongoing risk though and there is clearly a very vigorous debate occurring at the Fed, he added.
The dollar lost 0.1 percent to 76.336 against a basket of currencies <.DXY> after climbing as far as 76.817, its highest since early October, while the Aussie fell after Australia's September retail sales were much weaker than expected.
The greenback also lost 0.1 percent against the yen
Stock markets gained, although rises were muted as investors awaited clues to the timing of eventual shifts in central banks' policies.
Australian shares edged up 0.1 percent as mining shares climbed, while Seoul stocks rose nearly 1 percent on the back of robust quarterly earnings by Shinhan Financial Group
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.8 percent.
Japan's Nikkei was flat, with the market supported after U.S. indicators such as the factory gauge from the Institute for Supply Management pointed to a brisk pace of growth in the fourth quarter. But a lack of direction prior to the central bank meetings kept gains capped.
Japanese markets were closed on Tuesday for a holiday.
Fast Retailing <9983.T> advanced 3.1 percent after sales at its Uniqlo casual-clothing chain in Japan surged 35.7 percent in October from a year earlier, the biggest jump in over eight years, as cost-conscious consumers snapped up jackets and other winter items.
EYES ON BANK MEETINGS
But overall share gains were limited in the wake of a mixed performance by U.S. markets. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose slightly on Tuesday as news of a major railroad acquisition helped sentiment, but the Dow edged lower on caution as the Federal Open Market Committee began a two-day meeting.
The market's in a corrective phase, that's why there's not a lot of conviction, said Don Williams, chief investment officer at Platypus Asset Management. Ultimately we're waiting for the U.S. market to find its feet.
Markets are also holding their breath ahead of European bank meetings. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England are expected to keep rates unchanged on Thursday.
Gold eased slightly as investors took profits a day after it hit record highs, though sentiment remained good on bullion's growing status as a destination for diversifying official reserves.
Spot gold was at $1,081.80 per ounce, down from New York's notional close $1,084.50. On Tuesday, spot gold hit an all-time high of $1,087.45.
U.S. crude oil futures fell for the first time in three days on Wednesday, heading toward $79 a barrel after industry data showed a larger than expected build in U.S. gasoline inventories and a surprise build in distillate supplies.
NYMEX crude for December delivery lost 30 cents to $79.30 a barrel by 9:10 p.m. EST, after settling up $1.47 at $79.60 on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Anirban Nag in Sydney and Adrian Bathgate in Wellington; Editing by Jan Dahinten)