Asian shares were on tenterhooks Tuesday as investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s meeting that begins later in the session for clues on the outlook for U.S. monetary policy, while crude oil prices pulled back after their surge to 18-month highs.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 percent in early trade, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index slid 0.5 percent as the dollar came off highs against the yen.
The Fed is widely expected to hike interest rates for the first time in 2016 at a two-day meeting, with markets pricing in a nearly 100 percent chance of a quarter percentage point increase to the Fed’s target range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent.
What matters most to investors is the Fed’s statement and economic projections, which will be examined for any signs of reaction to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.
“The big question is what sort of pace can we expect from the Fed for next year?” said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo.
U.S. Treasury yields have recently spiked on expectations that the Trump administration will enact policies to spark growth and inflation. In addition, surging crude oil prices have stoked inflation expectations.
On Monday, the yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes touched 2.528 percent, its highest since Sept. 29, 2014. It stood at 2.460 percent on Tuesday.
Higher yields lifted the dollar, which climbed as high as 116.120 yen on Monday, its highest since early February. But it was last down 0.2 percent at 114.83 yen.
“There is some profit-taking, particularly by U.S. hedge funds, ahead of the Fed meeting and the upcoming Christmas holiday,” Ogino said.
“But many Japanese importers are far behind in dollar-buying, so they would like to buy on dips, and the downside should be limited during Asian trading hours.”
The euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.0649, while the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rival currencies, was 0.2 percent lower at 100.850.
Crude oil prices came off their highs after surging on Monday to their highest since mid-2015 on the back of a weekend deal by OPEC and non-OPEC producers to curtail output.
U.S. crude futures slipped 0.4 percent to $52.61 a barrel.