Markets edged down on Tuesday as Greek resistance to the strict conditions attached to a bailout fund sapped recent momentum spurred by hopes the global economy is improving, and the euro eased on renewed fears of a messy debt default.
The Australian dollar leapt to a six-month high but stocks turned negative after the central bank held rates steady at a review. Markets had positioned for a rate cut.
Opinion remained split over whether the wrangling over Greece's debt restructuring talks would eventually be resolved or trigger contagion across other vulnerable euro zone countries, tempering risk-taking investments.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose as much as 0.4 percent to its highest in more than five months, before reversing direction to stand down 0.2 percent.
Japan's Nikkei average fell 0.3 percent, slipping from a three-month high just shy of 9,000 hit on Monday.
Concerns over the Greece issue are limiting real risk taking from investors, even if the environment generally appears to be improving, said Tetsu Emori, a fund manager with Astramax Co. in Tokyo.
I'd expect all concerned parties to eventually strike a deal because it is in nobody's interest if Greece defaults. But a further delay in the debt talks will really hamper sentiment, he said.
After resisting terms of a proposed new bailout deal which demands strict labor reforms and other austerity steps, Greek political leaders face crunch talks on Tuesday to clinch an agreement needed to avoid a debt default.
The full package must be approved by the euro zone, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund before February 15 in order to complete legal procedures for a bond swap deal for a March 20 bond redemption.
Moreover, some euro zone countries require parliamentary approval to raise the bailout money.
The euro eased 0.2 percent to $1.3110, having recovered from an overnight low of $1.3026.
The dollar was up 0.3 percent against the yen at 76.72. Data from Japan's Finance Ministry on Tuesday confirmed that Tokyo conducted stealth foreign exchange intervention in October-December, even after a massive intervention on October 31 when the yen hit a record high around 75.31.
The Australian dollar jumped more than one cent to a six-month high $1.0812 from after the Reserve Bank of Australia unexpectedly kept interest rates steady at 4.25 percent at a policy review released at 10:30 p.m. EST.
Market players had expected a 25 basis point cut due to global growth concerns and a benign inflation environment.
Australian shares fell 0.4 percent, turning negative from being up 0.1 percent just before the rate announcement.
Commodities stabilized after falling the day before when the dollar firmed.
U.S. crude futures inched up above $97 a barrel after falling nearly $1 on Monday, while Brent extended gains to above $116 a barrel, supported by increased demand for heating fuel due to cold weather in Europe and persistent supply concerns.
Spot gold was up 0.2 percent to $1,723 an ounce, helped by a modest recovery in equities.
But Asian credit markets remained subdued, with the spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment grade index little changed, after tightening sharply on Monday.
Analysts expect consolidation in several markets which have recently climbed to near resistance levels, which may then pave the way for a break higher.
India's main 30-share BSE index is expected to find major resistance at 17,908, a high in October, after rising as high as 17,829 on Monday.
Shanghai shares need to break above 2,360 for an eventual move higher, while a fall below 2,240-50 will reset the downtrend. The shares fell 1.4 percent to 2,297 on Tuesday.
Emori said gold and oil have more upside scope than other assets.
Interbank lending rates in Europe continued to improve despite the Greece issue, largely due to the ECB's generous funding in December and expectations ahead of another such liquidity operation scheduled for later this month.
Three-month Euribor rates, traditionally the main gauge of unsecured interbank euro lending and a mix of interest rate expectations and banks' appetite for lending, fell on Monday to 1.094 percent from 1.102 percent, hitting the lowest level since late February last year.
(Additional reporting by FX analyst Krishna Kumar in Sydney; Editing by John Mair)