Asian shares slipped on Tuesday after a plunge in U.S. manufacturing activity hit American stocks and the dollar, while the euro hovered near a six-week high on optimism over Greece's plan to buy back debt.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.3 percent to 450.79, backing away from a nine-month high reached on Monday.
Australian shares eased 0.5 percent, while Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average fell 0.2 percent, declining further from a seven-month intraday high of 9,525.82 struck on Monday.
The losses in Asian stock markets were suggestive of some caution after gains in the past few weeks, with some of the negative bias seeping over from weakness in the American economy and continued gridlock in the U.S. Congress over proposals to avert a fiscal cliff - $600 billion worth of tax increases and spending cuts that will be automatically triggered in early 2013.
"Investors are cautious about the market's sharp rise in the past few weeks, and as soon as the Nikkei hit the 9,500-mark, trading has slowed down. Investors started taking a wait-and-see mode," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
Global share indexes had risen on Monday after manufacturing surveys showed signs of a recovery, albeit an uneven one, in China's economy and a slower contraction in Europe. But sentiment toward equities soured after data revealed U.S. manufacturing unexpectedly contracted in November to its lowest level in more than three years.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Monday that its index of national factory activity fell to 49.5 in November, the weakest since July 2009, as companies worried about whether lawmakers in Washington could reach a budget deal in time to avert a fiscal crisis that may lead to a recession.
Heading into next week, even a hint of progress in the fiscal cliff negotiations could spawn a modest rally, said Vishnu Varathan, regional economist in Singapore for Mizuho Corporate Bank.
"Overall the euro zone noises are coming out positive and I don't see any turning around there. The only real deal-breaker, whatever will send the dollar spiking up and risk really off the table, will be if there is a complete breakdown in the Congress negotiations," he said.
"Right now there is some disappointment here and there, but overall still the consensus is that negotiations will result in some kind of acceptable compromise," Varathan said.