Crude oil extends steep dive, stocks fall on growth fears


TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices extended a steep slide on Wednesday on the back of worries about weakening world demand and oversupply, while global shares sagged as energy sector strains heightened anxiety about a slow down in the global economy.

A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Spreadbetters expected European stocks to open lower, with Britain’s FTSE .FTSE losing 0.4 percent, Germany’s DAX slipping 0.3 percent .GDAXI and France’s CAC .FCHI shedding 0.5 percent.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dived 7 percent the previous day, suffering their biggest one-day loss in more than three years. The contracts last stood at $55.30 per barrel CLc1 for a loss of 0.7 percent, following a descent to a one-year low of $54.75 overnight.

Brent crude LCOc1 was down 0.35 percent at $65.24 per barrel after tanking 6.8 percent on Tuesday and set an eight-month trough of $64.61.

Brent had soared to a four-year high of $86.74 early in October as the market braced for U.S. sanctions on Iran, but prices have sunk roughly 25 percent since then.

Concerns about global growth pushed MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS down 0.5 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI dropped 0.55 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC retreated 0.9 percent.

Australian stocks fell 1.75 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 lost 0.3 percent and Japan’s Nikkei .N225 rose 0.16 percent.

The Dow .DJI and S&P 500 .SPX ended slightly lower on Tuesday as lower oil prices took a toll on energy shares, offsetting a small gain in technology stocks and renewed hopes for progress in U.S.-China trade talks. [.N]

“While the plunge in WTI will no doubt act as a relief for emerging markets and the global consumer, U.S. real rates continue to climb, underwriting the dollar’s strength,” wrote Sean Darby, chief global equity strategist at Jefferies.

“The competition for capital is coinciding with a sharp slowdown in China and emerging markets, putting pressure on 2019 earnings.”

Riskier assets have come under strong selling pressure over the past two months as worries about a peak in earnings growth added to international trade tensions and signs of slowing in global investment and growth.

The oil plunge underlined cracks in the global economy. In Japan, data confirmed the world’s third-largest economy contracted in the third quarter, adding to growing signs of weakness globally, with China and Europe losing momentum. Germany is expected to report later in the day that its economy also shrank last quarter.

“The markets would have reacted more positively to U.S.-China trade and Brexit-related headlines a few months ago,” said Makoto Noji, chief currency and foreign bond strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.

“But currently there is more focus on the possibility of both the U.S. and Chinese leaders maintaining their tough stance, with a compromise eluding them, and Brexit bogging down. Market sentiment is clearly cooling down.”

The United Kingdom and European Union agreed on the text for a Brexit divorce deal on Tuesday. Prime Minister Theresa May will present the draft withdrawal agreement to her senior ministers on Wednesday for discussion and then decide on the next steps.

Lifted by the latest hopes for a Brexit deal, the pound extended overnight gains and was last 0.1 percent higher at $1.2986 GBP=D4.

Brexit hopes also supported the euro. The single currency was up 0.05 percent at $1.1292 EUR=, pulling back from a 17-month trough of $1.1216 brushed on Monday.

The euro’s gains, however, were tempered by concerns over Italy’s budget proposals. The European Commission rejected Italy’s plan last month and has threatened to impose penalties if it is not revised to conform with EU regulations – something Rome has indicated it is unwilling to do.

The dollar index .DXY, which measures the greenback’s strength against six major currencies, lost 0.15 percent to 97.138.

The index had steadily climbed to a 16-month peak of 97.693 on Monday amid the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute and the Federal Reserve’s commitment to keep gradually raising interest rates.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) warned on Tuesday that a supply glut could emerge in 2019 as the world economy slows and rivals increase production more quickly than expected.

OPEC member states rely on high oil prices to finance government budgets and they have been watching the increase in supply and the corresponding price slump with concern.

Led by top exporter Saudi Arabia, OPEC has been making increasingly frequent public statements that it would start withholding crude in 2019 to tighten supply and prop up prices.

“OPEC and Russia are under pressure to reduce current production levels, which is a decision that we expect to be taken at the next OPEC meeting on Dec. 6,” said Jon Andersson, head of commodities at Vontobel Asset Management.

Such a stance, however, has caused friction with U.S. President Donald Trump, who supports low oil prices and has called on OPEC not to cut production.

Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Richard Borsuk & Shri Navaratnam

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