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Energy Firms Track Plunge In Oil As Asian Markets Retreat

While investors in all sectors are essentially in selling mode, firms linked to the oil industry are among the worst hit as the price of crude continues to plunge on concerns about demand and high production

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Asian markets sank again Wednesday, tracking a Wall Street rout, with energy companies suffering further losses following a collapse in oil prices.

However, Nissan and Mitsubishi recovered slightly after France and Japan sought to reassure on the future of their tie-up with Renault following the arrest of head Carlos Ghosn on Monday.

While investors in all sectors are essentially in selling mode, firms linked to the oil industry are among the worst hit as the price of crude continues to plunge on concerns about demand and high production.

The commodity took another battering on Tuesday, with both main contracts down more than six per cent following another Wall Street sell-off and as traders fret that Saudi Arabia might not deliver on planned production cuts.

Donald Trump's support for Riyadh in the case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been taken by some observers as a move to prevent them from lowering output at the December meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC members.

"At the heart of the matter is the lack of market respect for OPEC rhetoric regarding deep production cuts, (which) have been ignored as the market now questions if the projected reduction would be entirely sufficient to rebalance markets given the expected glut in the first quarter," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.

Adding to the dour mood is the China-US trade war -- which shows no signs of easing just a week before Trump and China's Xi Jinping are due to meet -- US waivers on buying Iranian oil and a slowing global economy.

And Cailin Birch, a global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, told Bloomberg News: "We expect the pace of growth in both the US and China to slow heading into 2019, which will maintain downward pressure."

Crude prices have plunged almost 30 per cent from their four-year highs touched at the start of October, when analysts had been speaking of them even heading towards USD 100 a barrel.



While Brent and WTI rose more than one per cent in Asia, regional energy shares were deep in the red with Hong Kong-listed CNOOC and Sinopec each down more than three per cent, while Inpex dived nearly four per cent in Tokyo and Woodside Petroleum lost 2.3 per cent in Sydney.

Broader markets were also lower though they pared earlier sharp losses.

Tokyo fell 0.6 per cent by lunch, Hong Kong dropped 0.5 per cent and Shanghai eased 0.1 per cent.

Sydney dropped 0.6 per cent, Singapore 0.1 per cent and Seoul 0.8 per cent with Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta also in the red.

Investor unease was also stirred by more comments from Trump knocking the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes, saying the central bank was "a problem".

In Tokyo, car giant Nissan rose 1.1 percent and Mitsubishi added 0.3 per cent, clawing back some of the massive losses suffered Tuesday in response to news of Ghosn's arrest over alleged financial misconduct, including under-reporting his income.

There is speculation the once-revered auto svengali's downfall could lead to the break-up of their alliance with French giant Renault.

But French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and his Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko reaffirmed "the strong support" of their governments to the alliance.

The gains come despite a report in Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily saying prosecutors believe Nissan also has a case to answer.

Nissan will decide Thursday whether to remove Ghosn as chairman, with Renault already saying it will stick with him as CEO.


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