A motorist fills her car at a gas station near an oil rig in Oklahoma City
Hong Kong - Arab Today
Asian shares mostly fell Wednesday, led by sharp losses in Shanghai, as oil prices took a hit from news that a crude workers strike in key producer Kuwait had finished after three days.
After an edgy start to the day, investors brushed off another strong lead from Wall Street and Europe to cash in after Tuesday's sharp gains.
Oil, which has been centre stage this week after the collapse of weekend output limit talks, tumbled Wednesday after the industrial action in Kuwait was called off as union leaders look to negotiate a pay deal.
The walkout slashed Kuwaiti output and provided some much-needed support to the commodity on world markets Monday and Tuesday, largely offsetting the failure of the talks between OPEC and non-OPEC giants aimed at freezing production.
"The size of the disruption, had the strike persisted, would have been quite significant," Ric Spooner, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said. "It took quite a lot of oil out of production."
In afternoon trade West Texas Intermediate was down 2.3 percent and Brent lost two percent.
On equity markets Tokyo's Nikkei ended the day 0.2 percent higher, with speculation that Japan's central bank will unveil fresh stimulus following last week's double earthquake boosting sentiment.
However, Mitsubishi Motors crashed more than 15 percent on reports it had conducted faulty emission tests. The news comes as German car titan Volkswagen struggles to recover from its own massive emissions-cheating scandal, which hammered its reputation.
Sydney gained 0.5 percent and Wellington 0.4 percent.
- China volatility -
However, the losses outweighed the gains and Shanghai was the biggest loser, shifting 2.3 percent.
Analysts said there was speculation dealers were concerned that a string of positive recent data on the world's number two economy, China, could prevent authorities there from unveiling more stimulus measures.
But Wei Wei, an analyst at Huaxi Securities Co. in Shanghai, told Bloomberg News: "We haven't heard anything particular for the decline and it's strange and surprising that the market is dropping at such a fast and steep rate."
Hong Kong ended 0.9 percent lower, Seoul shed 0.3 percent, Singapore fell 0.5 percent and Taipei dived 1.4 percent. There were also losses in Manila, Jakarta and Bangkok.
The unease on trading floors seeped through to foreign exchange markets, where the dollar retreated against the safe haven yen, while emerging market units gave up early gains or turned negative.
"Volatility in Chinese equities will still be very high, causing investors to be more cautious in other developing countries' markets," said Namchai Techaratanawiroj, the head of research at LH Securities Co. in Bangkok.
"We would see some selling pressure on some shares in the region after the current rallies to lock in profit."
In early European trade London dropped 0.2 percent, while Frankfurt and Paris each fell 0.4 percent.
- Key figures around 0810 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 16,906.54 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 2.3 points at 2,972.58 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.9 percent at 21,236.31 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 6,391.54
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1358 from $1.1359 on Tuesday
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.84 yen from 109.20 yen
New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 18,053.60 (close)