Energy firms suffer further losses in Asia; markets remain mixed

Energy companies suffered further losses yesterday following a collapse in oil prices while most Asian markets fell, but with the sharp losses witnessed in the morning being tempered. Nissan recovered marginally after France and Japan sought to reassure on the future of its tie-up with Renault following the arrest of head Carlos Ghosn on Monday, although Mitsubishi extended its drop. While investors in all sectors are essentially in selling mode of late, 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 6% following another Wall Street sell-off and as traders fret that Saudi Arabia might not deliver on planned production cuts.


Visitors watch share price movements at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Nikkei 225 closed down 0.4% to 21,507.54 points yesterday

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 — as well as US waivers on buying Iranian oil and a slowing global economy.

Crude prices have plunged almost 30% from their four-year highs touched at the start of October. Brent and WTI rose yesterday but regional energy shares fell. Hong Kong-listed CNOOC lost more than 2%, while PetroChina shed 2% and Sinopec was 1.4% off. Inpex dived 3.3% in Tokyo and Woodside Petroleum lost 2.1% in Sydney. Broader markets were mostly negative but some managed to claw into positive territory. Tokyo fell 0.4%, Sydney dropped 0.5% and Seoul slipped 0.3% with Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta also in the red. However, Hong Kong edged up 0.5% and Shanghai added 0.2%. Unease was also stirred by more comments from Trump knocking the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes, saying it was “a problem”, while the central bank has also suggested the positive effects of his tax cut will likely fade next year.

Joe Davis, global chief economist at Vanguard, warned that he saw more trouble ahead. “We may not be through the market volatility because we’re still not at a ‘fair value’ for the equity market,” he told Bloomberg TV. “We remain guarded in our return expectations,” with prospects for a “bumpy ride over the next several months.” In Tokyo, car giant Nissan rose 0.4%, having plunged on Tuesday on news of Ghosn’s arrest over alleged financial misconduct, including under-reporting his income. However, Mitsubishi gave up early gains to fall one %. There is speculation Ghosn’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, while later Wednesday it was reported that prosecutors had been granted a 10-day extension to Ghosn’s detention.

Nissan will decide today whether to remove Ghosn as chairman, with Renault already saying it will stick with him as CEO.Regional tech firms were mixed after another hammering for US titans including Apple, Microsoft and Netflix. In currency trading the pound edged up against the dollar as British Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Brussels to hammer out the finer details of her Brexit plan, buoyed by the fact hardliners in her party are struggling to muster support for a leadership challenge. In early trade, London was up 0.2%, Paris added 0.5% and Frankfurt gained 0.7%. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed down 0.4% to 21,507.54 points; Hong Kong — Hang Seng ended up 0.5% to 25,971.47 points and Shanghai — Composite closed up 0.2% to 2,651.51 points yesterday.

Sources and photo-credits: AFP, Gulf Times