MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were little changed. The index fell to a fresh four-week low on Monday before recovering to rise on global stimulus hopes.
Japan's Nikkei stock average opened up 0.1 percent after hitting a four-week low on Monday.
European shares inched higher on Monday but in a range, with U.S. markets closed for the Labour Day holiday. The U.S. will report its Institute for Supply Management manufacturing data on Tuesday, a key report helping to gauge the probability of an easing by the Federal Reserve at its September 12-13 policy meeting.
"Yesterday's pattern is likely to be repeated today. Traders are watching to see if (ECB President Mario) Draghi comes out holding a definite card of action," said Chung Seung-jae, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities.
Business surveys from the euro zone to China on Monday underscored a spreading contraction in manufacturing business around the world in August, as the damage on the global economy from the euro zone's troubles deepened. New export orders fell even in such countries as India, where manufacturers have expanded without a break for over three years.
The euro zone purchasing managers' index stayed below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction for the 13th month in a row, raising expectations the European Central Bank may cut its main interest rates from record lows on Thursday.
Markets were already expecting the ECB to at least outline its bond-buying scheme aimed at containing the borrowing cost in struggling economies such as Spain. Such prospects have helped cap Spanish 10-year yields below a critical level of 7 percent.
Draghi told European lawmakers on Monday the ECB's purchases of short term sovereign bonds would not breach the European Union's taboo of directly financing euro zone economies, according to a recording obtained by Reuters.
"The comments were not meant to be public but of course raised market expectations of the ECB meeting on Thursday," Westpac Institutional Bank said in a note.
Separately, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Monday he was sure the country's Constitutional Court at its September 12 ruling would not block treaties establishing a permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and strong budgetary regulations in Europe.
The ESM, meant to succeed the existing temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), will provide a crucial firewall to contain the euro zone debt crisis and the ECB's bond-buying plan is conditional on the deployment of the ESM.
The euro was capped ahead of the ECB's decision, trading down 0.1 percent at $1.2584 against the dollar.
"While the white swan from the ECB's announcement of a new bond buying programme was welcome, we remain concerned that new white swans will be slower in coming," Societe Generale said in a research note.
"This is nonetheless what defines the main upside. In China and the US, the upside is defined by more policy stimulus. Our fear is that such initially white swans, medium-term would turn to black," it said.
Moody's Investors Service reminded of the risks in Europe.
Moody's said it changed the outlook of the EU's AAA long-term issuer rating to negative from stable, citing negative outlooks to the AAA sovereign ratings of Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands, which combined account for about 45 percent of the EU's budget revenue.
The growth-sensitive Australian dollar traded at $1.0240, near a nine-week low against the euro and a six-week low against the U.S. dollar, as it was hit by concerns over slowdowns at home and in its largest export market, China.
The Reserve Bank of Australia holds its policy meeting on Tuesday, with economists expecting rates to remain on hold at 3.5 percent. But Monday's surprisingly weak retail sales data fuelled speculation the bank may cut rate later in the year.
U.S. crude was up 0.5 percent to $96.97 a barrel while Brent inched up 0.1 percent to $115.83.
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012