BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets headed lower Tuesday as investors turned cautious before U.S. earnings season kicks off this week.

Investors will get a feel for corporate America's outlook as earnings reports start coming. Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. will launch the reporting season for the fourth quarter of 2012 on Tuesday after U.S. markets close. Events during the quarter such as Superstorm Sandy, the presidential election, and worries about the narrowly avoided "fiscal cliff" could lead to some unexpected results.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 percent to 10,548.56 as the yen crept upward against the U.S. dollar. The rebound in the yen led to some investors to sell export shares that had surged as the currency weakened in recent weeks. Isuzu Motors Co. fell 3 percent while Mazda Motor Corp. lost 3.9 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 23,239.64. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent to 2,003.35 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 4,712.70. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand fell, while Indonesia and the Philippines rose. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed.

Major indexes surged last week after U.S. lawmakers passed a bill to avoid a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases that have come to be known as the fiscal cliff. The deal, however, remains incomplete. Politicians will face another deadline in two months to agree on more spending cuts.

"The looming budget battle in the US has also prompted some hesitancy to buy risk assets," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.

Benchmark crude oil contract for February delivery was up 9 cents to $93.27 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 10 cents to close at $93.19 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3129 from $1.3112 in New York late Monday. The dollar fell to 87.65 yen from 87.84 yen.

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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

 

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