Crude oil prices continue to slide as an ongoing supply glut shows no sign of easing
Hong Kong - AFP
Oil prices extended losses Monday with Brent hitting an 11-year low, fuelling fears about the global economy, but most Asian stock markets recovered from early losses to rally in the afternoon.
However, with Wednesday's US Federal Reserve interest rate rise now in the past, analysts said concerns about the global economy continue to keep traders cautious.
While markets will begin winding down for the Christmas break Friday there are some key economic figures due for release this week, including US economic growth and home sales as well as Japanese inflation and spending.
Crude continued to slide as an ongoing supply glut showed no sign of easing. Figures Friday showed an increase in the number of US rigs drilling, increasing worries that output will continue apace.
Brent sank 1.9 percent at one point to $36.17 a barrel -- its weakest since July 2004 -- before picking up slightly.
US standard West Texas Intermediate was down 0.9 percent at $34.42, levels not seen since early 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.
Prices have slumped by almost a fifth since December 4 when the OPEC oil producers' group decided against limiting production, despite tepid demand and the supply glut.
The commodity has sunk more than 60 percent from above $100 in summer 2014 and prices are now at levels not seen since the financial crisis.
"There hasn’t been any significant signs of a pick-up in demand and we haven’t seen any meaningful cuts to production," Ric Spooner, a chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.
"Nothing has really changed in the oil market over the past couple of months apart from the price."
- Toshiba plunges -
On currency markets the greenback slipped to 121.20 yen Monday, well below last week's high above 123 yen touched after the US rate rise. The dollar was also down against the euro.
In Tokyo scandal-hit conglomerate Toshiba lost almost 10 percent following a weekend report in the leading Nikkei business daily that it would likely record a fiscal year net loss of about $4 billion.
In a statement after the markets closed Monday, Toshiba said it would post a record 550 billion yen ($4.5 billion) annual loss.
The 140-year-old company was this year hit by revelations that executives systematically pressured underlings to inflate profits in a years-long scheme to hide poor results.
Japan's Nikkei stock index ended 0.4 percent lower but pared most of its early losses after falling 1.8 percent at one point, with a pick-up in the dollar against the yen providing some respite for exporters.
Most other regional markets were in positive territory after falling into the red in the morning. Sydney closed up 0.1 percent, Hong Kong gained 0.2 percent in the afternoon and Seoul ended 0.3 percent higher.
Shanghai closed 1.8 percent higher on fresh hopes Chinese authorities would unveil new measures to reform the economy, particularly the cumbersome state-owned enterprises.
But Stewart Richardson, chief investment officer at RMG Wealth Management in London, warned: "The problems that have been affecting both markets and the global economy for months remain in place.
"Commodity prices remain low, corporate debt remains too high and emerging markets continue to struggle. Furthermore, although Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen continues to characterise the US economy as strong, it does appear to be slowing down."
- Key figures at 0710 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 18,916.02 (close)
Sydney - S&P/ASX200: UP 0.1 percent at 5,109.0 (close)
Shanghai - composite: UP 1.8 percent at 3,642.47 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 21,802.71
Euro/dollar: UP to $1.0872 from $1.0870 late Friday
Dollar/yen: DOWN to 121.20 yen from 121.26 yen
New York - Dow: DOWN 2.1 percent at 17,128.55 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,052.42 (close)