The Australian sharemarket reversed a heavy volume opening surge as other Asian markets languished in the red after China failed to meet monetary easing hopes over the weekend and eurozone jitters returned to the market focus.
The S&P/ASX 200 index opened almost one per cent higher after offshore markets reversed early weakness on Friday, but the index slipped steadily throughout the session to close 6 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 4283.3 points, with the mixed start to the domestic earnings season offering little in the way of direction.
Euro uncertainty resurfaced after German vice chancellor Philipp Roesler said a Greek exit would be "manageable" and the leader of Germany's ruling coalition partner Free Democratic told a German newspaper that Germany's role in the crisis might need to be put to a vote.
Bloomberg reported that ECB Governing Council member and Belgain central bak president Luc Coene also said it made "no sense" for the European Central Bank to start financing" Spain and Italy.
"We haven't forgotten what happened in August of last year: We bought Italian bonds and right after that the Italian government reneged on its pledges," he was quoted as saying.
Negotiations between Greece and the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund over bailout funding begin in September, while the German constitutional court will also rule on whether it was legal for the European Stability Mechanism to buy Spanish and Italian bonds.
The Shanghai composite index was down 0.8 per cent at the close of the ASX, with sentiment dented by lacklustre July Chinese bank lending.
However, Westpac economists said they still expected growth to be supported by a ramp-up in infrastructure spending in coming months, with state-owned enterprise funding coming from bonds markets rather than banks, the traditional source.
Japan's Nikkei index was little changed after June-quarter GDP growth of 0.3 per cent fell well short of the forecast 0.6 per cent, raising stimulus hopes.
Copper slipped 0.2 per cent to at $US7470 a tonne, Shanghai steel rebar futures edged 0.1 per cent higher, while spot iron ore fell another $US1.00 on Friday to a 31 month low of $YS113.80 a tonne, down 18 per cent for the year.
Gold climbed $US14 to $US1624 an ounce as expectations US, European, Chinese and Japanese stimulus in coming months remained high.
The Australian traded in a tight range near $US1.0555.
Forex.com analyst Chris Tedder said he did not expect "massive" stimulus from the US Federal Reserve or the People's Bank of China anytime soon.
"The PBoC has a huge arsenal of tools it can use to stimulate growth, but the question remains why would they if they are going to be continually undermined by the lacklustre levels of growth in the rest of the world.," he said.
"In the US, the Fed is running out of options. It is not clear that QE3 would have the desired impact that the market believes it would. Hence, Bernanke and his colleges may have no choice but to remain on the sidelines."