Asian stocks were mixed in choppy trade Monday but Tokyo fell amid caution ahead of the corporate reporting season and after news that Japan's nuclear crisis could drag on for up to nine months.
Tokyo's Nikkei slipped 0.36 per cent, or 34.87 points, to 9,556.65 as dealers nervously awaited the start of the earnings season, which will provide the first glimpse of the economic impact of last month's devastating quake-tsunami.
Sentiment was also weighed after Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the Fukushima nuclear plant that was crippled by the March 11 twin disasters, said it hoped to achieve a "cold shutdown" within six to nine months.
"While laying out a timeline (for the reactor site shutdown) is a positive, the timeframe could also be viewed as too long," Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities, said.
Sydney added 0.20 per cent, or 9.8 points, to 4,861.9.
Hong Kong fell 0.74 per cent, or 177.76 points, to 23,830.31 while Seoul shed 0.21 per cent, or 2.78 points, to 2,137.72.
Indian shares fell 1.53 per cent in a second straight day of losses with the benchmark 30-share Sensex Index ending down 295.65 points to 19,091.47.
Shanghai gained 0.22 per cent, or 6.80 points, to 2,137.72, with the market suffering little impact from another round of monetary tightening by China on Sunday.
The People's Bank of China said it would raise the amount of money banks must keep in reserve for the fourth time this year -- its latest move aimed at cooling lending and taming prices.
The move came after data Friday showed inflation at 5.4 per cent year on year in March, a 32-month high despite four interest rate hikes since October.
"The (Chinese) market wouldn't be very sensitive to the hike in banks' reserve requirement ratio as investors had anticipated the central bank would launch further tightening steps in the short run after Friday's data release," said Shanghai Securities analyst Qian Weihai.
US stocks gained on Friday as investors welcomed a 0.5 per cent rise in consumer prices in March, in line with expectations.
However, core inflation -- which strips out volatile oil and food prices, and which is more closely watched by the Federal Reserve -- rose a less-than-expected 0.1 per cent.
The news led the Fed to say it would bring an end to its easy monetary policy in June, as initially stated, dashing hopes of an early exit that would limit the amount of cash in the markets.
On currency markets the dollar was lower at 82.67 yen, compared with 83.09 in New York late Friday.
The euro also slipped after the Wall Street Journal reported the International Monetary Fund believes Greece's debt is unsustainable and has told European officials Athens should consider restructuring.
The euro's problems were compounded by Moody's cutting its credit rating on Ireland by two notches to just above junk status, citing an "expected decline" in government finances.
The euro fetched $1.4326 in European morning trade, down from $1.4431 in New York late Friday. The single European currency was at 118.59 yen, down from 119.91.
Daisaku Ueno, chief analyst at Gaitame.Com Research Institute, told Dow Jones Newswires: "Recent sharp gains in the euro so far this year may have priced in multiple rate hikes by the ECB, and resurfacing European sovereign debt issues may have offered investors a good cue to take profits."
Oil prices edged down after last week's gains, although the weaker dollar provided some support.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, fell 78 cents to $108.88 a barrel in the afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for June eased 49 cents to $122.96.
Gold closed at $1,485.00-$1,486.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Friday's close of $1,473.00-$1,474.00.
In other markets:
-- Singapore closed down 0.28 per cent, or 8.92 points, to 3,144.38.
DBS Bank dropped 0.68 per cent to Sg$14.56 and Singapore Airlines gained 0.43 per cent to Sg$14.14.
-- Taipei ended flat, edging down 3.64 points to 8,714.48.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.29 per cent lower at Tw$69.0 while MediaTek lost 4.76 per cent to Tw$320.0.
-- Manila gained 0.41 per cent, or 17.55 points, to 4,269.19.
Alliance Global Group rose 0.2 per cent to 11.36 pesos, Philex Mining added 4.6 per cent to 16.48 and Metropolitan Bank & Trust was 0.7 per cent higher at 68.80. Cebu Air lost 3.0 per cent to 76.90.
-- Wellington rose 0.36 per cent, or 12.48 points, to 3,465.17.
Telecom was up 4.3 per cent at NZ$2.06 and Fletcher Building slipped 0.4 per cent to NZ$9.14.
-- Kuala Lumpur ended 0.39 per cent, or 5.98 points, higher at 1,527.92.
Gaming giant Genting gained 3.1 per cent to 11.14 ringgit but plantation firm IOI Corp fell 2.2 per cent to 5.29.
-- Jakarta ended flat, edging down 3.44 points to 3,727.07.
Bank Danamon fell 2.3 percent to 6,300 rupiah, coal producer Bukit Asam slid 1.1 percent to 22,300 and heavyweight Telkom jumped 1.4 percent to 7,350.
-- Bangkok edged up 0.53 per cent, or 5.76 points, to 1,090.67.
Banpu added 2.00 baht to 780.00, while PTT gained 4.00 baht to 375.00.
-- Mumbai ended down 295.65 points to 19,091.47.
Infosys Technologies fell to 2.83 per cent or 83.6 rupees to 2,905.2 rupees.
India's largest software exporter TCS fell 3.43 per cent or 40.85 rupees to 1,149.7.