Asian shares pause after recent climb, focus on earnings

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian stocks were subdued on Tuesday as Wall Street turned cautious ahead of the corporate reporting season and earnings guidance from regional tech heavyweight Samsung came in well short of forecasts.

Investors could also be forgiven for feeling a touch of altitude sickness after many indexes recently hit all-time or multi-year peaks.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a fraction lower in thin trade. It briefly struck a three-year high at 502.00 but shied away from tough resistance at the 2011 top of 512.12.

Samsung Electronics said its operating profit probably fell 24.5 per cent in April-June to 7.2 trillion won, under the 8.3 trillion mean estimate from 38 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Its shares, however, still managed to bounce 0.6 per cent, perhaps because they have been falling for most of the past month as the market priced in a poor result.

Japan's Nikkei followed Wall Street's lead and fell 0.5 per cent, so failing to sustain last week's six-month high.

The Dow had lost 0.3 per cent on Monday, while the S&P 500 shed 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.8 per cent.

Cyclical stocks tied to the pace of economic growth ranked among the weakest of the day. The S&P industrial sector index fell 0.7 per cent.

Wall Street hit a number of milestones last week, with the Dow topping 17,000 for the first time and the S&P 500 closing at a record high after a strong June jobs report.

The earnings season kicks off with Alcoa later on Tuesday and dozens of major companies are scheduled to report next week, including numerous Dow components.

Profits are forecast to grow 6.2 per cent for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data, but investors see a slight chance of a return to double-digit growth for the first time in nearly three years.

Markets are also on guard for minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting to be released on Wednesday, which will be scoured for hints on when the policy committee might consider raising interest rates.

Some analysts have brought that day forward following June's upbeat payrolls report. Yet most assume a move is still a whole year away, too distant to trouble Treasury investors right now.

There is little in the way of major Asian data on Tuesday, but top Chinese and US officials, including US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, will hold annual talks in Beijing on July 9-10.

They will discuss the yuan's value as well as the impact of US monetary policy, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said on Monday.