Volumes were light across the board. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 were flat.
"It's subdued today for sure," said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank's Asia Treasury Department in Singapore, adding that focus was by default on efforts to resolve the trade war between the world's two biggest economies that has dented global growth.
"There are some lingering doubts over whether a phase one deal can be struck ... I think the suspicion is that there's a lot more wrinkles to iron out than initially thought."
Overnight, CNBC had reported the mood in Beijing was pessimistic about the prospects of sealing an agreement.
On the other hand, a new extension allowing U.S. companies to keep doing business with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei suggested something of an olive branch.
Still, neither morsel shed much light on progress in U.s.-China negotiations, and this week's listless trading suggests optimism that resolution is near is beginning to run out of steam.
"We're still waiting," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney. "The longer we go on, the more concerns will arise. The reality is the clock is ticking."
The next deadline in the dispute is Dec. 15, when another round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese good is scheduled to take effect.
Wall Street's main indexes traded mostly flat on Monday, looking for direction on trade, though they ended the day inching higher to record closing levels.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 0.1%. The S&P 500 gained 0.05%, and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.1%.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR rose to 1.8118% compared with its U.S. close of 1.808% on Monday.
Currency markets were similarly indecisive and range-bound. The safe-haven Japanese yen JPY= climbed as high as 108.45 per dollar before retreating to trade flat at 108.64.
The Australian dollar AUD= nudged 0.2% lower to $0.6793 after the central bank said it had seen a case for cutting rates this month.
The biggest mover overnight was the British pound GBP= which headed towards $1.30 as four polls showed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party tracking toward victory at the Dec. 12 election.
Sterling hit a one-month high of $1.2984 overnight, before retreating a little in Asian trade to settle around $1.2953.
"Overall, risk-related plays will continue to be whipsawed by alternating headlines, but in the short term, risk-off plays may still have room to run as uncertainties persist," said Terence Wu, a strategist at OCBC bank in Singapore.
Spot gold XAU= , which has been closely tracking the fortunes of the Sino-U.S. trade dispute, was flat at $1,470.03 per ounce.
U.S. crude CLc1 dropped 0.18% to $56.95 a barrel. Brent crude LCOc1 fell to $62.34 per barrel.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Kenneth Maxwell) ((email@example.com; +65 6318 4876;))
((To read Reuters Markets and Finance news, click on https://www.reuters.com/finance/markets For the state of play of Asian stock markets please click on: 0#.INDEXA ))