World oil prices spiralled lower as traders readied for the return of Iranian crude
London - Arab Today
Europe's stock markets extended recent heavy losses Friday as investors reacted to new 12-year lows for oil prices, auto sector woes and China's struggling economy.
British, French and German equities all shed about 1.5 percent at the end of another troubled week for global markets that was driven by plunging crude oil and Chinese slowdown concerns.
Shanghai was the worst performer in Asia on Friday, losing 3.6 percent and entering an official bear market -- a term defined as a 20 percent fall from a recent high.
The loss topped off a rollercoaster week as a better-than-expected reading on Chinese trade failed to eradicate heightened worries about the health of Asia's powerhouse economy.
Paris also motored lower on fears that French automaker Renault could be engulfed by an emissions scandal that has plagued German rival Volkswagen, dealers said.
World oil prices meanwhile spiralled lower as traders readied for the return of Iranian crude in a market already awash with supplies.
Brent oil sank to $29.43 per barrel -- last seen February 10, 2004. New York's West Texas Intermediate dived to $29.39 -- a low dating back to November 25, 2003.
"European markets slumped on the final day of a rough first two weeks of the year," said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
"Oil plunging back below $30 per barrel and the Shanghai Composite back into bear market territory is fuelling risk-off attitudes."
- Automakers skid lower -
Back in Paris, shares in Renault and other car companies skidded lower once again.
Renault had slumped by more than 20 percent during Thursday's session after unions reported that anti-fraud investigators had raided several of the company's sites, possibly looking for emissions cheating devices on diesel engines, before closing around 10 percent lower.
In late morning Friday, Renault shares were down 2.8 percent at 75.61 euros on the Paris stock exchange.
"Everybody wants to know whether Renault is cheating," brokers Aurel BCG said.
"The stock exchange context and the painful memories of the VW scandal have prompted investors to massively sell the stock," they added, noting that French government ministers had been trying to "put out the fire".
The French government has a vested interest in Renault's fortunes, owning a 19.7 percent stake in the carmaker.
Shares in Peugeot, France's biggest automaker ahead of Renault, fell 2.5 percent in Paris, Renault alliance partner Nissan's stock closed 1.9 percent lower in Tokyo, while BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler all dropped between one and two percent in Frankfurt.
Friday saw most Asian bourses tick cautiously higher before going into reverse, rocked by the latest dizzying plunge in oil prices.
Oil has dived by about three quarters over the past 18 months owing to weak demand, a slowing global economy and a vast worldwide supply glut.
- Key figures at 1100 GMT -
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.4 percent at 5,834.3 points
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 1.4 percent at 9,662.4
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.6 percent at 4,244.6
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.5 percent at 2,978.8
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 17,147.11 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 3.6 percent at 2,900.97 (close)
New York - Dow: UP 1.4 percent at 16,379.05 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0905 from $1.0865 Thursday
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 117.37 yen from 118.06 yen