Asian stock markets teetered near their weakest levels in three weeks on Tuesday, as a rout in oil prices to near seven-year lows knocked global energy company shares and commodity currencies.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.4 per cent, erasing all the gains made so far this month, with resource-heavy Australian shares leading decline with a fall of 0.9 per cent.
Japan’s Nikkei bucked the trend, rising 0.3 per cent, after revised data showed Japan had dodged a recession in the third quarter, with GDP up an annualised 1.0 per cent, compared to a preliminary reading of a 0.8 per cent fall.
Global oil benchmark Brent crude futures dropped 5.4 per cent to $40.66 per barrel on Monday, after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) policy meeting on Friday ended without an agreement to lower production.
Keeping production at near record levels in an oversupplied market has spooked investors grappling with reduced demand from China, the world’s biggest energy consumer.
The focus now shifts to China’s trade data for November due later in the day.
Brent fell below its August trough to hit its lowest level since February 2009, when the world’s economy was mired in the deepest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
US crude futures fell to as low as $37.50 per barrel, also hitting a near-seven-year low.
The plight of oil market hit energy shares on Wall Street hard.
S&P 500 lost 0.7 per cent to 2,077.07, led by 3.7 per cent decline in the S&P energy sector energy index.
Commodity currencies were another victim, with the Canadian dollar hitting a 11-1/2-year low of C$1.3524 to the US dollar, falling 1.0 per cent on the day on Monday.
The Australian dollar also lost steam, slipping to $0.7257 , from a 3-1/2-month high of $0.7386 touched on Friday.
Among emerging market currencies, the Colombian peso fell 3 per cent to a record low.
The US currency was broadly supported as investors expect the Federal Reserve to raise rates later this month for the first time in nearly a decade.
The euro was on the back foot as the short-covering rally following last week’s less-than-aggressive stimulus from European Central Bank had run its course.
The common currency stood at $1.0838, having slipped from its one-month high of $1.0981 set on Thursday. The yen was little changed so far at 123.25 per dollar.
The offshore Chinese yuan traded at a three-month low of 6.4745 per dollar.
Long-dated US Treasury debt prices held firm after rallying on Monday as the drop in oil prices pointed to benign inflation, potentially tempering the Fed’s policy tightening path after the expected liftoff on Dec. 16.
“It will be hard for the Fed to achieve their goal of two per cent inflation. People have said the fall in oil prices should boost consumption but that hasn’t just happened,” said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Monday that once the Fed decides to raise interest rates, attention will shift to actual movement in inflation to see if the central bank’s economic narrative proves accurate.
The 10-year US debt yield fell to 2.236 per cent , off one-month high of 2.358 per cent touched on Friday following strong US employment data.