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Asia shares retreat as ECB caution overshadows US gains

Asian shares fell on Thursday as caution ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting later overshadowed potential gains from Wall Street's record finish.

"Asian markets have lagged behind versus the U.S. markets. The two reasons are, flow back into U.S. assets have continued after the debt ceiling debate where investors are buying on dips, but not selling the rallies and Asian equities indices that outperformed during the political wrangling are now lacking in conviction," said Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

US gains, ECB in focus

The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched another record close at 15,746 on Wednesday, surpassing last week's record close of 15,680 as investors bought into optimism that the Federal Reserve would continue its stimulus longer than thought, ahead of Friday's key payrolls data.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is due to hold a policy meeting later on Thursday and many analysts expect a rate cut in light of recent weak economic data. Wednesday's Markit's Composite purchasing managers' index of manufacturing and services showed activity edging down to 51.9 in October, from 52.2 in September.

Nikkei slips 0.7%

Earnings reports dominated trade for Japanese investors. Toyota Motor eased over 1 percent despite reporting a 70 percent surge in quarterly net profit, thanks to a weak yen.

(Watch now: Toyota needs to push further into EMs: Pro)

Electrical connector maker Japan Aviation Electronics rallied 15 percent after revising up full-year guidance.

Online firms Rakuten and CyberAgent rose over 2 percent each after they were included in new stock index due to their strong returns on equity. The new stock index is called the 'JPX-Nikkei Index 400' and will debut in January.

Draghi to hold fire but maintain easing bias: Pro

Shanghai 0.5% lower

China's benchmark index fell following reports that the People's Bank of China will skip Thursday's open-market operations. Investors also stayed on the sidelines ahead of this weekend's Communist Party's policy meeting and key economic data due on Friday.

(Read more: Will China's Plenum be a watershed event for stocks?)

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China rose 0.8 percent each after the China Securities Journal reported that the mainland's 'Big Four' banks extended $29.8 billion in loans this month, the lowest level of the year.

Sinopec skidded nearly 4 percent on news that state-owned parent company China Petrochemical plans to buy back a 2 percent stake in the subsidiary.

Sydney slips 0.2%

Australia's share market slightly widened losses after data showed the nation only added 1,100 jobs in October, well below forecasts for a rise of 10,000 jobs. The Australian dollar fell 0.4 percent against the greenback on the news.

"It's important to note that employment is a lagging indicator of the economy and the softness we are seeing now reflects the weakness in the economy seen over the last year. While the labor market remains very weak, it's not weak enough to justify another rate cut from the RBA," said Shane Oliver, Head of Investment Strategy and Chief Economist at AMP Capital.

Mining services firm Ausdrill plunged 29 percent after flagging a decline in earnings for the year ahead.

(Watch now: How are miners faring amid weak bullion prices?)

Australia New Zealand Banking and National Australia Bank tumbled 4.2 and 3.3 percent, respectively, as they traded ex-dividend.

South Korea's 'tiger students'

Kospi down 0.6%

South Korean markets hit a one-month low as index heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell over 1 percent, extending the previous day's 2.3 percent drop following the company's analyst meeting on Wednesday.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors rose nearly 1 percent each on hopes that a moderate leader would take over Hyundai's labor union.

Markets opened for trade one hour later than usual due to a national college entrance exam and will shut one hour later than usual.

(Read more: College exam brings South Korea to a standstill)

Emerging markets mixed

India's benchmark index finished the session lower by around 0.35 percent after trading higher for much of the day. Indonesia's Jakarta Composite rose 0.8 percent after the nation's finance minister said that he expects economic growth to hit 5.6 percent this year, within the central bank's 5.5 to 5.9 percent range.

By's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter @NyshkaCNBC