Asian stock markets were mixed early Tuesday after oil rebounded Monday and before the U.S. Federal Reserve starts a two-day meeting at which it is expected to raise interest rates for the first time in nine years. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.2 percent and Singapore's STI 0.7 percent. South Korea's KOSPI rose 0.4 percent and Australia's ASX 200 0.3 percent.
In the U.S. on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 0.5 percent and the Nasdaq composite 0.4 percent. The U.S. oil benchmark jumped 1.9 percent to $36.31 per barrel. That's its first gain in more than a week since OPEC member countries failed to agree to cut production to boost prices. Brent crude, the global oil price benchmark, ended little changed at $37.92 a barrel after falling as low as $36.33, its lowest since December 2008.
“Markets remain nervous,” said Philip Borkin, a senior economist in Auckland at ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd., as reported by Bloomberg. “Like equities, bond markets appeared to follow oil prices movements although moves were reasonably violent.”
The Federal Reserve meets Tuesday and Wednesday having signaled in recent weeks that the U.S. economy has recovered enough from the global financial crisis to take higher interest rates. The decision, as well as the Fed's comments on future increases and economic projections are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
“Investors are focusing on the Fed,” said Toshihiko Matsuno, a chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co. in Tokyo, as reported by Bloomberg . “They want to see what the Fed will announce on the target interest rate at the end of 2016. There’s market consensus that rates will rise this week, but it is unclear what happens after that.”
Some investors are nervous because of news from the high-yield bond industry, which is vulnerable to higher interest rates and, one economist says, lower oil prices.
A high-yield bond fund -- Lucidus Capital Partners -- said it had sold all its assets and will return $900 million to investors next month after a large investor sought to redeem his position. Last week, two other high yield fund managers -- Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners -- suspended redemptions.
"It's the [Fed's] communiqué that's going to count, but the real problem here is the junk bond market, which is tied to oil prices," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York City, as reported by Reuters. "A lot of paper written to oil companies is in question, and so it ties in with the price of oil."