A global supply glut, weak demand and the growth slowdown in China
Hong Kong - AFP
Oil prices struggled at seven-year lows on Tuesday, sending Asian energy firms plunging in line with their US and European counterparts after OPEC's decision to maintain output dimmed hopes for a recovery in the black gold.
Another tumble in Chinese imports and exports exacerbated the decline on regional markets, reinforcing worries about the state of the world economy at the same time as Washington considers raising US interest rates.
A global supply glut, weak demand and the growth slowdown in China have combined with soaring production to send crude slumping more than 60 percent over the past 18 months.
Investors had been hoping that with the market becoming increasingly tight, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could find a way to ease output and release some pressure on prices.
However, the cartel's six-monthly meeting Friday ended without agreement between bickering members to make any cuts, which in turn battered global markets.
On Monday US benchmark West Texas Intermediate sank 5.8 percent and Brent crude shed 5.3 percent -- hitting levels not seen since February 2009. WTI had tumbled 2.7 percent and Brent lost 1.9 percent Friday.
US giant ExxonMobil, France's Total and Italy's Eni all fell between two and three percent, with many smaller producers and oil-services companies suffering even bigger drops.
And Asian firms continued those losses as crude failed to recover. Hong Kong-listed Chinese giant CNOOC was down 4.3 percent, while PetroChina was off more than one percent in Shanghai.
- Weak demand -
Mining giant BHP Billiton dived more than five percent in Sydney, while Rio Tinto was off 4.3 percent.
Woodside lost four percent and Oil Search plunged more than 16 percent after Woodside dropped a multi-billion-dollar bid for the latter without explanation.
Santos, which has a joint venture with Oil Search in a massive PNG gas project, saw its shares crash 13.1 percent.
Japan's Inpex was off five percent while JX Holdings lost 3.7 percent.
Among Asian stock markets, Tokyo and Sydney lost around one percent, Shanghai fell 1.9 percent and Hong Kong was off 1.8 percent.
"Market focus at the moment is the potential deflationary effects of lower oil prices, and the signalling that aggregate demand is weak," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.
Commodity-linked currencies took a hit from the falls, with Malaysia's ringgit down one percent and the Australian dollar losing 0.1 percent.
In China, investors were hit by another round of weak trade data indicating the world's number two economy and key driver of global growth is heading for its worst year in a quarter-century.
"Fading exports remain a main drag on the slowing economy, adding downward pressure on the yuan and increasing the likelihood of further easing," Bloomberg economists Fielding Chen and Tom Orlik wrote in a note.
"The hope is that the recovery in the global economy in 2016 may extend some help to China’s exports."
The plunge in oil prices and news from China overshadowed data out of Tokyo showing Japan's economy grew 0.3 percent in July-September.
The revised figures came just weeks after initial estimates for the quarter indicated the country had fallen into recession.
However, Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said: "While severe pessimism is receding, consumption -- a key driver for the economy -- is still weak. Without more spending and higher wages, the engine of the economy won't be ignited."
- Key figures around 0810 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.0 percent at 19,492.60 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.8 percent at 21,813.83
Shanghai - composite: DOWN 1.9 percent at 3,470.07 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP to $1.0857 from $1.0835 late Monday
Dollar/yen: DOWN to 123.11 yen from 123.36 yen
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.7 percent at 17,730.51 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 6,223.52 points (close)