The unexpectedly strong U.S. jobs data on Friday have raised the stakes for the July U.S. consumer prices report due on Wednesday, especially for the Fed's policy outlook.
"U.S. stocks were struggling to hold on to gains, as the focus moves from a robust U.S. labour market to the U.S. CPI data out later this week," ANZ analysts said in a note.
"The priority of reducing inflation to underpin the expansion in domestic demand and sustainable jobs growth will ring loud and clear from the 25-27 August Jackson Hole symposium."
Early in the Asian trading day, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2%. The index is up 0.5% so far this month. U.S. stock futures rose 0.07%.
Japan's Nikkei slid 0.81% while Australian shares were flat.
China's blue-chip CSI300 index was down 0.31% in early trade. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index opened 0.12% lower.
On Monday, Wall Street closed mostly flat after blockbuster jobs data last week reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will crack down on inflation, while a revenue warning from chipmaker Nvidia reminded investors of a slowing U.S. economy.
Investors now await consumer price data on Wednesday to gauge whether the Fed might ease a bit in its inflation fight and provide a better footing for the economy to grow.
There were some encouraging signs for the Fed on the prices front, with a New York Fed survey on Monday showing consumers' inflation expectations fell sharply in July.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.09% while the S&P 500 lost 0.12% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.1%.
Bonds also got a safe-haven bid due to unease over Beijing's sabre rattling against Taiwan amid days of Chinese military exercises around the island.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 2.7517% compared with its U.S. close of 2.763% on Monday. The two-year yield, which rises with traders' expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 3.2115% compared with a U.S. close of 3.216%.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, was up at 106.37.
Oil prices continued their recent retreat after suffering the worst week since April on worries about stalling global demand as central banks keep tightening.
U.S. crude dipped 0.19% to $90.59 a barrel. Brent crude fell to $96.48 per barrel.
The rise in the dollar was a setback for gold, though it had managed to bounce from the lows hit on Friday and was traded at $1788.7731 per ounce.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
By Julie Zhu