SYDNEY -- Asian shares paused near multi-month peaks on Thursday while bonds eked out a bounce as reports of delays in sealing a preliminary Sino-US trade deal left investors frustrated at the lack of concrete progress.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a shade lower, just off a six-month high hit earlier in the week.
Japan's Nikkei started in the red, having touched a 13-month top on Wednesday, while South Korean stocks were 0.3 percent down after hitting their highest since May. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were down a notch. Reuters reported on Wednesday a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign an interim trade deal could be delayed until December as discussions continue over terms and venue.
Among various suggestions was to sign a deal after a scheduled NATO meeting in early December.
"One could take the view that by not committing to meet the original deadline it gives more time for a somewhat more comprehensive agreement to be thrashed out," said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank.
"But markets have understandably jumped the other way, exhibiting a slight loss of confidence that anything more substantial than an agreement not to further lift tariffs, in return for some increase in US agricultural purchases, can be agreed by way of an initial deal."
Wall Street was underwhelmed by the news and the Dow ended Wednesday all but flat, while the S&P 500 gained 0.07 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 0.29 percent.
HP Inc rose over 6 percent after Reuters reported US printer maker Xerox Holdings Corp has made a roughly $33 billion cash-and-stock offer for the computer group.
The pause in the risk rally helped bonds recoup a little of their recent losses. Yields on benchmark US 10-year notes fell back to 1.82 percent from a two-month top of 1.87 percent.
That in turn restrained the dollar, which eased to 108.94 yen from a weekly high of 109.24. The dollar was just a shade softer on a basket of currencies at 97.949.
The euro was struggling to bounce at $1.1068, perilously close to chart support at $0.1060.
Spot gold was little changed at $1,490.23 per ounce and well within recent tight trading ranges.
Oil prices nursed losses after taking a hit from a surprisingly large build in U.S. crude inventories.
US crude was 2 cents lower at $56.33 a barrel.