TOKYO: Asian shares fell on Monday on growth concerns ahead of the third-quarter corporate earnings season, lifting the safe-haven dollar which in turn undermined commodities.
As risk sensitive assets retreated, the dollar index .DXY measured against a basket of six major currencies gained 0.4 percent.
A stronger dollar and worries that a slowing global economy may further dent fuel demand pushed U.S. crude futures down more than $1 to $90.82 a barrel. Brent fell 0.6 percent to $113.99. <O/R>
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.3 percent.
Tokyo's Nikkei average .N225 was down 0.1 percent. .T
U.S. stocks wrapped up their worst week in four months, led lower on Friday by financial shares. More financial institutions will report earnings in coming days, including Citigroup (C.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Bank of America (BAC.N), amid concerns about their shrinking profit margins.
"People are just cautious, quite reluctant. It is not only equities, it is property and a whole range of asset classes, people are happy to have the money in the bank rather than put it to work," said Burrell & Co director Richard Herring.
"We will probably need a good earnings reporting season out of the U.S. or a change in the environment here - a more certain outlook," Herring said.
A decline in Chinese consumer and producer prices in September left scope for policy easing to underpin growth.
Data over the weekend from China, the world's second-largest economy after the United States, offered some positive news, suggesting government moves to underpin growth are working and additional policy action may not be needed.
China's broad M2 money supply rose more than expected in September while its exports grew at roughly twice the rate expected in September and imports recovered.
"The better than expected upswing in Chinese exports follows similar outcomes for Taiwan and Korea and may be consistent with a bottoming in global manufacturing PMIs in suggesting a possible stabilization or improvement in global growth," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.
Commodity currencies failed to cling to an early lift, with the Australian dollar falling 0.6 percent to $1.0204, close to the near three-month low of $1.0149 plumbed a week ago.
US POSES RISK
The encouraging Chinese data could not completely dispel concerns about the global slowdown, with the euro zone's prolonged debt crisis dragging on.
Investors should brace for three or four months of jittery markets due to uncertainty over support for Spain and the looming "fiscal cliff" threatening the U.S. economy, BlackRock Chief Executive Laurence Fink told Reuters on Saturday. Fink warned that the U.S. stock market could lose 5 to 10 percent in a correction in the final months of the year.
"Markets have yet to fully reflect concerns about the 'fiscal cliff' but the issue represents a major downside risk," Takao Hattori, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo said .
Orders related to the U.S. military industry may feel the pinch as automatic across-the-board budget cuts set to begin on January 2 if there is no deal on deficit reductions, Hattori added.
The era of rising Western spending on weapons and wars is over, providing a more challenging environment for major arms manufacturers.
Hattori also said markets have been supported by expectations and hopes, rather than conviction, over how Europe will resolve its debt crisis.
The euro slipped 0.4 percent to $1.2897 as Europe muddles through debt relief measures for Spain and Greece.
Investors expect highly-indebted Spain to request assistance, triggering the European Central Bank's program to buy bonds of struggling euro zone states that ask for aid.
They also hope Europe will not allow Greece to leave the currency union.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said his government expects to agree a new austerity package with its lenders and for the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to bridge their differences on how to cut the country's debt by the time EU leaders meet on October 18-19.
Euro zone officials are considering new ways to reduce Greece's huge debts because delays to reforms by Athens and continued recession have put the target of a debt to GDP ratio of 120 percent in 2020 out of reach, euro zone officials said.
Euro zone officials also said Spain could ask for financial aid from the euro zone in November.
Asian credit markets weakened, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index widening by 2 basis points.