Tokyo - Asian shares fell on Friday as investors took stock of a four-day rally driven by optimism, yet to be borne out by action, that authorities will soon take decisive steps to ease concerns over the eurozone's debt crisis and weak global growth.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched down 0.3% after rising to a three-month high on Thursday, but was set for its largest weekly gain since late January.
Japan's Nikkei stock average dropped 0.6% to below the psychologically key 9 000 mark, after hitting it for the first time in five weeks on Thursday.
US and European equities rallied for a fifth straight day on Thursday, with the leading index of European shares nearing a 2012 peak. Indicating a steady rise in risk appetite, the Euro STOXX 50 volatility index, Europe's main gauge of equity market investor anxiety, hit a three-week low.
"We view the recent recovery in risky asset prices as a continuation of the recovery from the April-May market downdraft," Barclays Capital analysts said in a research note.
"While positioning and sentiment seem broadly supportive for now, and upside risks remain, we think it makes sense to begin to fade the recent rally, and position more cautiously for a potentially eventful September," they wrote.
Markets have been pinning their hopes on the possibility that the European Central Bank will start buying sovereign bonds to lower borrowing costs for Spain, and that the Federal Reserve will expand its monetary easing, despite suggestions from the authorities that no steps were likely before September.
ECB governing council member Christian Noyer reiterated on Thursday that the ECB was determined to bring down the excessive borrowing costs hurting Spain and Italy and should be ready to intervene decisively in bond markets very soon, adding that a Greek exit from the euro zone was not envisaged.
China's softening inflation and industrial output data on Thursday reinforced market expectations that Beijing will further loosen monetary policy before the end of September to underpin growth.
China is scheduled to report its July trade data on Friday.
Commodities were trading in tight ranges, with oil steadying, copper a tad lower and gold drifting slightly lower.
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