Asian markets mostly down on oil concerns

MANILA, Philippines – Asian shares were mostly down Friday, with investors cautious due to the plunge in oil prices overnight, concerns that a correction in commodity prices is underway and Friday night’s scheduled release of U.S. inflation data that carries the risk of market volatility.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 was 0.4 per cent down at 15217.24, losing earlier gains. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 0.8 per cent at 20,541.67. China’s Shanghai Compose index fell 0.8 per cent to 2,993.66. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 edged up 0.1 per cent at 5,230.30. South Korea’s KOSPI was down 0.8 per cent at 1958.47. Southeast Asian markets were mixed.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks swerved between gains and losses Thursday and wound up with a muddled finish as the price of oil plunged. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 22.74 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,895.88. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 1.83 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 2,097.90. The Nasdaq composite rose 17.65 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,876.81. The Dow rose as much as 66 points in the morning and fell as much as 102 points in the afternoon.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “Oil will be front and centre in the Asian session today in the wake of the weekly EIA oil inventories report which drove declines in the US markets,” said IG market analyst Angus Nicholson, referring to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Currently, Asian equity markets look set to follow the oil price lower.”

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 42 cents to $45.56. On Thursday, it lost $2.29 or 4.8 per cent, to $45.14 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 57 cents at $46.97. It shed $2.40, or 4.9 per cent, to $46.40 a barrel in London on Thursday. The price of oil fell Thursday after the EIA said crude oil inventories shrank by 2.2 million barrels last week. Analysts expected a bigger drop of 2.6 million barrels, according to S&P Global Platts. Inventories have been at historically high levels lately as the supply of oil outstrips demand.

CURRENCIES: The dollar declined to 100.70 yen from 100.76 yen the previous day. The euro rose to $1.1078 from $1.1055 on Thursday.