Investors were cautious ahead of a policy announcement later Wednesday by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is expected to cut interest rates again by a quarter of a percentage point. It has cut rates twice since the summer to shield the U.S. from the impact of the trade war and a slowing global economy.
U.S. Treasury yields dipped ahead of the decision. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slid to 1.83% from 1.85% late Monday. Meanwhile, reports that China and the U.S. may not reach a trade agreement in time to sign a deal next month at a regional summit put a damper on sentiment.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told reporters Tuesday that both sides were working to finalize a deal, aiming to have Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping sign a deal next month at a Pacific Rim summit in Chile.
But various officials have indicated an agreement might not be ready in time. "These headlines are an annoying distraction as it provides a not too subtle reminder of how quickly things can turn on the trade war front while psychologically lingering in the back of trader's minds," Stephen Innes of AxiTrader said in a commentary.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.6% to 22,843.12. Sydney's S&P ASX 200 sank 0.8% to 6,689.50. In South Korea, the Kospi declined 0.6% to 2,080.27. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.4% to 26,667.71 while the Shanghai Composite index gave up 0.5% to 2,939.32.
India's Sensex gained 0.5% to 40,024.02. Shares also rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Company earnings reports have recently helped lift stock markets. With nearly half of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported results for the July-September quarter, the index is on pace to report a profit drop of 3.5% from the prior year, according to FactSet.
That's not as bad as the roughly 4% decline that analysts were expecting, but it would be the first time that profits dropped for three straight quarters since 2015-2016. In Europe, Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirmed it is in talks with French rival PSA Peugeot, its second bid this year to reshape the global auto industry which is facing huge challenges with the transition to electric and autonomous vehicles. Shares in Fiat Chrysler shot up nearly 9% on the news to 12.75 euros ($14.70) in Milan trading.
ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil fell 12 cents to $55.42 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 27 cents to settle at $55.54 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dipped 3 cents to $61.20 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 108.84 Japanese yen from 108.88 yen on Monday. The euro edged up to $1.1115 from $1.1112.
Matt Ott in Washington contributed to this report.