* MSCI Asia ex-Japan falls, firmer yen weighs on Nikkei
* Dollar falls vs yen after sharp and rapid rise
* Alcoa kicks off U.S. earnings later on Tuesday
* Euro firms on speculation ECB will be more cautious about
* European shares likely flat to slightly lower
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Asian shares fell on Tuesday as
investors turned cautious after the new year's rallies, with
corporate earnings season for the last quarter of 2012 looming
and the European Central Bank's policy meeting due later in the
European shares were seen flat to modestly lower, with
financial spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100,
Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX would open
down by 0.1 percent. U.S. stock futures suggested a soft
Wall Street start with a 0.1 percent drop.
The euro remained firm against the dollar on speculation the
ECB might refrain from signalling more interest rate cuts when
it meets on Thursday, helping to support copper and gold prices.
The dollar paused from its rapid and sharp rally against the
yen after rising more than 10 percent in less than two months on
speculation the new Japanese government will push for aggressive
monetary easing to beat deflation.
U.S. stock prices retreated from five-year highs on Monday,
spurring selling of oil, gold and other risky investments.
U.S. earnings season unofficially kicks off when aluminium
maker Alcoa reports its results after Tuesday's market
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
fell 0.5 percent, as investors took profits from
the new year rally which lifted the index more than 2 percent in
the first week of 2013.
South Korean shares were among the underperformers
with a 0.4 percent drop, despite Samsung Electronics
, the world's top maker of memory chips and handsets,
estimating its October-December operating profit at a record 8.8
trillion won ($8.27 billion).
Samsung's guidance, coming ahead of full quarterly results
by Jan. 25, was in line with forecasts. A technical glitch and a
worrying outlook for corporate results cooled investment
"Overall, fourth-quarter earnings are likely to be bad,
except for some tech firms. However, the economy is turning
around, so this is likely to be the worst of it," Kim
Young-joon, an analyst at SK Securities, said of Seoul shares.
The dollar was down 0.3 percent to 87.54, trimming
Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock average fell 0.6
percent, after snapping a five-session winning streak on Monday
when a pause in the yen's weakness triggered profit-taking on
The euro inched up 0.1 percent to $1.3124.
"I expect position adjustments to continue ahead of key
events such as the ECB meeting and earnings reports starting
with Alcoa," said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at
Credit Agricole in Tokyo, adding the euro could still push
higher to around $1.3150 ahead of the ECB meeting.
Saito said the dollar may face selling pressure against the
yen, having scaled its highest since July 2010 at 88.48
on Friday, up about 7 percent over the past month. But he said
support was seen firm at 86.50 yen.
ECB SPECULATION SPURS ACTIVITY
Australia's trade deficit in November widened to its largest
since early 2008 as imports again outpaced exports, though a
recent meteoric rise in the price of iron ore suggests the worst
of the trade pain is over for the resource-rich nation.
China's annual economic growth may have quickened to 7.8
percent in the fourth quarter, a Reuters poll showed, snapping
seven straight quarters of weaker expansion, but the recovery is
likely to be tepid and the economy may need continued policy
support. The data is due out on Jan. 18.
Before the growth data, China will release its trade data on
Thursday, which includes initial estimates for metals imports
A firmer euro and hopes for the Chinese data underpinned
London copper prices, which firmed 0.1 percent to $8,080
a tonne, as China is the world's biggest copper consumer
accounting for 40 percent of refined demand.
"It may be there is a sense that they (metals) have been
oversold in the short term," said metals analyst Ivan Szpakowski
at Credit Suisse in Singapore, adding that the euro's gains have
also provided added support.
Spot gold also held on to small gains, up 0.1 percent
at $1,647.76 an ounce, eyeing the ECB's policy meeting and
underpinned by robust physical demand in Asia.
"If we hear anything from the ECB suggesting a worsening
outlook for the region's economy or future rate cuts, it will
weigh on the euro and consequently weigh on gold prices."
U.S. crude inched up 0.1 percent to $93.30 a barrel
and Brent futures inched up 0.1 percent to $111.50.
A lack of clear market direction in risk assets from
equities to commodities deterred action in Asian credit markets,
keeping the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade
index barely changed from Monday.