Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3 percent, taking solace from a weaker currency. Photograph: (Getty)
Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer gave an upbeat assessment of the US economy's current strength, saying the job market was close to full strength and still improving
Asian shares slipped on Monday and the dollar pulled away from last week's lows on expectations that a signal might emerge from a Federal Reserve gathering this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that the US central bank is gearing up to hike interest rates.
Global central bankers will join the annual mountain retreat that opens on Thursday, with Fed Chair Janet Yellen due to speak the following day.
On Sunday, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer gave a generally upbeat assessment of the US economy's current strength in prepared remarks, saying the job market was close to full strength and still improving.
"We are close to our targets," Fischer said, though he did not directly address the timing of when the US central bank should next raise interest rates.
Last week, New York Fed President William Dudley said a rate hike would be possible in September. Fischer's remarks fuelled that sense of anticipation, though interest rate futures contracts indicate that market is pricing in about 50/50 odds of an increase in December.
"Fischer's comments have raised some expectations in the market, particularly after Dudley's recent comments," said Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.7 per cent, after losing 0.3 per cent last week. Wall Street logged modest losses on Friday, ending nearly flat for the week.
Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3 per cent, taking solace from a weaker currency ahead of the Jackson Hole meeting. It had skidded 2.2 percent last week, as the dollar dipped below 100 yen.
"Moves in the Japanese market will likely be dominated by the dollar-yen performances after the meeting," said Masashi Oda, general manager of the strategic investment department at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management. "The market could move either way, but most people want some kind of signal at this point."
The dollar was up 0.6 percent against its Japanese counterpart at 100.84 yen, while the euro was down 0.4 percent at $1.1276, pulling away from last week's eight-week high of $1.1366.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, added 0.4 per cent to 94.923, pulling away from last week's low of 94.077, which was its lowest since June 24.
Crude oil futures dropped, giving back some of their recent gains that propelled oil into bull market territory, after technicals had it in a bear market earlier this month.
Crude futures have risen almost $10 a barrel since early August on speculation that Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will agree next month to a production freeze deal with non-OPEC producers led by Russia.
US crude fell 0.9 percent to $48.09 after gaining 9 per cent last week, rising for a second straight week. Brent crude was 1.3 per cent lower at $50.20 a barrel, after gaining 8 per cent last week, rising for a third week in a row.
Gold fell on Monday to its lowest in over a week as the dollar strengthened. Spot gold was down 0.5 percent at $1,334.01 an ounce.