Asian stock markets weaker as energy prices fall

SEOUL: Asian stock markets were lower Friday as a persistent drop in the price of oil weighed on investor sentiment, eroding gains sparked the day before by the Fed’s first rate hike in nearly a decade.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 sank 1.9 percent to 18,986.80 and South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.1 percent to 1,975.32. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.1 percent to 21,845.52 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 turned up 0.1 percent to 5,106.70. Stock markets in Taiwan and Southeast Asia also were weaker.

ENERGY SLUMP: The price of oil traded weaker on Friday following a big fall earlier this week after a surprise build in US crude inventories. Energy and mining stocks have been pummeled this year as the sluggish global economy reduces demand even as supplies become more abundant.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The Fed decision has clearly had no effect on the ongoing world of pain that oil prices find themselves in,” said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne, Australia. “A wave of defaults and bankruptcies in the energy sector still looks likely to come, and these concerns are certainly weighing on markets.”
OIL PRICES: Benchmark US crude was down 11 cents at $34.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed 1.6 percent lower, or 57 cents, at $34.95 a barrel in New York on Thursday. It had not closed beneath $35 per barrel since Feb. 18, 2009 and traded above $60 a barrel as recently as June. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was up 7 cents at $37.13 a barrel in London.

JAPAN STIMULUS: The Nikkei index slumped even after the Bank of Japan said it will expand its asset purchase program to encourage more corporate investment. The central bank is pumping tens of trillions of dollar a year into the economy but has yet to make much progress.

WALL STREET: US stocks skidded Thursday as companies that sell oil, gold and silver tumbled along with the prices of those commodities. The Dow Jones industrial average sank 1.4 percent to 17,495.84. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 1.5 percent to 2,041.89. The Nasdaq composite index gave up 1.4 percent to 5,002.55.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 121.91 yen from 122.58 yen on Thursday. The euro gained to $1.0856 from $1.0835.