Asian stocks were subdued on Tuesday as Wall Street turned cautious ahead of the corporate reporting season and as earnings guidance from regional tech heavyweight Samsung came in well short of forecasts. Investors could also be forgiven for feeling a touch of altitude sickness after many indices recently hit all-time or multi-year peaks.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eked out marginal gains to reach a fresh three-year high at 502.00, but faced tough resistance at the 2011 top of 512.12. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said its operating profit likely fell 24.5 percent in April-June to 7.2 trillion won ($7.12 billion), under the 8.3 trillion mean estimate of 38 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Its shares, however, still managed to bounce 1.8 percent, perhaps because they have been falling for most of the past month as the market priced in a poor result. Japan's Nikkei followed Wall Street's lead and fell 0.9 percent, so failing to sustain last week's six-month high. The Dow had lost 0.3 percent on Monday, while the S&P 500 shed 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq 0.8 percent.
Those cyclical stocks tied to the pace of economic growth, ranked among the weakest of the day. The S&P industrial sector index fell 0.7 percent. Wall Street had hit a number of milestones last week, with the Dow topping 17,000 for the first time and the S&P 500 closing at a record high after a strong June jobs report. The earnings season kicks off with Alcoa later on Tuesday and dozens of major companies are scheduled to report next week, including numerous Dow components. Profits are forecast to grow 6.2 percent for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data, but investors see a slight chance of a return to double-digit growth for the first time in nearly three years.
Markets are also on guard for minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting due on Wednesday, which will be scoured for hints on when the policy committee might consider raising interest rates.
Some analysts have brought that day forward following June's upbeat payrolls report. Yet most assume a move is still a whole year away, which was too distant to trouble Treasury investors right now.
Yields on 10-year paper were back at 2.6170 percent, having retraced all of Thursday's spike to 2.69 percent. The lack of a sustained increase in yields sapped the strength of the U.S. dollar, which lapsed back to 101.72 yen from a peak of 102.21. The dollar index traded at 80.203, off a 1-1/2 week top of 80.359. That helped the euro pop back above $1.3600, recovering from a low of $1.3576 hit when Germany reported a surprisingly steep 1.8 percent drop in industrial output. There is little in the way of major Asian data due on Tuesday, though top Chinese and U.S. officials, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, will hold their annual talks in Beijing on July 9-10.
China and the United States will discuss the yuan's value as well as the impact of U.S. monetary policy, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said on Monday. In commodity markets, gold was steady at $1,317.60 an ounce, having held to a relatively tight $1,305.90/$1,332.10 range for the past two weeks. Oil prices extended their recent decline as events in Iraq and Ukraine have so far not led to any serious disruptions in the low of the fuel. Brent dipped 26 cents to $109.98 a barrel, and U.S. oil lost 11 cents to $103.42 a barrel.