Asia stock markets drop as oil reinforces growth jitters

AP and AFP

TOKYO/HONG KONG — Asian stock markets slid again Thursday as falling oil prices reinforced jitters about a sluggish global economy.

European stock markets eased lower at the start of trading on Thursday, with London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index down 0.22 percent at 6,485.63 points. Elsewhere, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 fell 0.3 percent to 9,770.66 points and the CAC-40 in Paris drifted 0.06 percent lower to 4,225.33 compared with Wednesday’s close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 33.68 points, or 1.6 percent, to 2,026.14. The decline was the biggest for the index since Oct. 13. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 268.05 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,533.15. The Nasdaq composite fell 82.44 points, or 1.7 percent, to 4,684.03. Falling oil prices and concerns about global growth have pushed stocks down sharply since U.S. shares closed at record levels Friday.

Analysts said traders were taking their cash off the table before the end of the year after enjoying a surge over the past few weeks that has been supported by strong U.S. data, Japanese easing measures and hopes for stimulus in China. Tokyo stocks fell 0.89 percent, with exporters hurt by a stronger yen and as investors booked year-end profits. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which lost three percent over the previous two days, fell 155.18 points to 17,257.40. The Topix index of all first-section issues gave up 0.70 percent, or 9.79 points, to 1,397.04. The Tokyo market might have entered a period of consolidation ahead of the New Year break, Nomura Securities said in a note to clients. Hong Kong and Shanghai shares slipped, in line with a global sell-off, as tumbling oil prices hit energy firms. The Hang Seng Index shed 0.90 percent, or 211.98 points, to 23,312.54 on turnover of HK$98.08 billion (US$12.66 billion). Among other firms Tencent fell 1.82 percent to HK$113.40, HSBC eased 0.85 percent to HK$75.80 and China Mobile lost 0.60 percent to HK$91.20. In mainland China the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.49 percent, or 14.27 points, to 2,925.74 on turnover of 479.8 billion yuan (US$78.5 billion). But the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, rose 0.90 percent, or 13.06 points, to 1,465.59 on turnover of 296.3 billion yuan. China’s stock market has swung wildly in recent weeks, with a rapid run-up since a surprise November 21 interest rate cut, followed by a major one-day loss on Tuesday. Bank giant Industrial and Commercial Bank of China eased 2.33 percent to 4.20 yuan. Shanghai-listed China Pacific Insurance fell 4.53 percent to 24.23 yuan while Shenzhen-listed Shanxi Securities Co. lost 8.47 percent to 14.58 yuan. Gold was at US$1,221.25 an ounce compared with US$1,204.67 late Tuesday.