Global stocks rebounded on Tuesday from early losses tied to Japan's struggle to contain the world's worst nuclear crisis in decades, while the euro steadied after comments by the European Central Bank's chief bolstered the view it would raise interest rates soon.
Japan's Nikkei index <.N225> was down about 0.3 percent in late trading after falling as much as 1.5 percent earlier.
Early price-drops enticed bargain-minded investors who feel stocks are undervalued and poised to rise after Thursday's end of first quarter and the close of the Japanese fiscal year, analysts said.
Some investors concluded now it's an opportunity to pick up some shares, said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney. The broad trend is up and dips are being bought.
Stocks fell initially following Monday's losses on Wall Street and news that plutonium was found in soil at the earthquake-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
Heightening the uncertainty for investors, some Japanese companies said there would be delays in reporting full-year financial results as they assessed the damage from the devastating quake and tsunami which hit the country's northeast on March 11, and the impact of widespread power outages which are still preventing many firms from restarting production lines.
Shortages of key components made in Japan have forced some manufacturers, particularly auto makers, to cut back production in North America, Europe and parts of Asia.
MSCI's index of Asian shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.37 percent after slipping 0.06 percent earlier. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 indexed gained 0.47 percent to 4755.80.
In Japan, shares of Fukushima's operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) <9501.T> were untraded on a flood of sell orders on a newspaper report. The Yomiuri paper citing unidentified government sources as saying there was talk about temporarily nationalizing the utility, which a top Japanese official denied.
TEPCO is the ground zero of the problem, said Adrian Foster, head of financial markets research Asia-Pacific at Rabobank International in Hong Kong. This is disproportionately a Japan issue.
A tepid session on Wall Street overnight reinforced investors' aversion to piling back into riskier assets. Data showed U.S. consumers increased spending in February but much of the gain went to cover rising food and energy costs, giving the economy only a modest lift. <.N>
EURO FINDS FOOTING
In currency markets, the euro stabilized after ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet said inflation in the euro zone was durably above the central bank's target, reinforcing the view it will raise interest rates early next month. The move would boost the value of the single currency and returns on euro-denominated investments.
Still, the euro remained under pressure because of
the region's festering sovereign debt problems and uncertainties stemming from Sunday's loss of a key state election by Germany's ruling party.
The euro last traded at $1.4108, compared with $1.4078 late in New York on Monday. Early in the session, it was as high as $1.4111.
The yen firmed against the dollar as the discovery of plutonium leak at the Fukushima plant, together with the fighting in Libya and unrest in the Middle East, stoked some safe haven demand for the Japanese currency.
The dollar fell about 0.2 percent to 81.64 yen, moving further away from 82.00 -- the March 18 high hit after the world's major central banks intervened to stem the yen's strength.
A steady euro fostered support for gold after losing ground on Monday. Spot gold was last $1,419.69 an ounce in tight-range trading, compared with $1,419.50 late in New York on Monday. It is 2 percent below the record high of $1,447.40 set on March 24.
Brent oil prices fell for a third straight day after rising on a weak dollar and the political turmoil in North Africa and Libya.
Several OPEC producers have boosted output recently to make up for supply disruptions in Libya as rebels fight government forces.
Brent crude fell 38 cents to $114.42 a barrel, while U.S. crude slipped 26 cents to $103.72.
(Additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski and Natsuko Waki in TOKYO; Rujun Shen and Randy Fabi in SINGAPORE; Editing by Kim Coghill and Richard Borsuk)