Asian shares were steady on Tuesday in thin volume as investors took to the sidelines before U.S. markets reopen later in the day from a long weekend and data which could offer clues over growth prospects in the world's largest economy.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was nearly flat for a second day in a row, while Japan's Nikkei stock average <.N225> opened down 0.43 percent.

The euro was steady around $1.3050, staying well above its 11-month trough of $1.2945 hit earlier this month.

European and some Asian markets, including Hong Kong and Australia, were closed on Tuesday.

Shares are expected to drift sideways as passive interests prevail in typical year-end fashion, and as many stock markets were closed for the holidays yesterday, providing no dynamic whatsoever, said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities.

On Monday, when more markets were closed, Japanese and Indian stocks outperformed the rest of Asia in thin trade, with sentiment partly lifted by signs of U.S. economic recovery.

U.S. holiday season sales were expected to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion, the National Retail Federation said, slower than last year's growth but stronger than its preseason forecast.

The potential brisk sales could reinforce emerging views the U.S. economy is strengthening fundamentally, and follows recent data showing improvement the labout market. The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits hit a 3-1/2-year low in the week shortly before Christmas while consumer sentiment scaled a six-month high in December.

Investors will be looking for more positive signs from data this week, including the S&P Case-Shiller house price index for October and consumer confidence for December.

Sentiment has been underpinned by solid performances in U.S. equities, and strong data this week could help global markets end the year in positive tone.

The broad Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> broke through its 200-day moving average after a four-day rally lifted stocks to bring the index into positive territory, and the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose to its highest in five months on Friday.

Persistent worries about progress in resolving the euro zone debt crisis could dampen sentiment when European markets reopen later in the week.

Bank of Japan minutes for its November 15-16 meeting showed on Tuesday BOJ board members were worried that unstable global financial markets were affecting Japan's markets to some extent.

(Additional reporting by Joonhee Yu in Seoul; Editing by Ron Popeski)