Asian markets mixed as worries over China, falling oil prices continues

TOKYO - Asian shares were mixed after opening lower on Tuesday following Tuesday's losses on Wall Street. Worries over China's slowdown and tumbling oil prices are overshadowing year-end trading.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index was flat at 18,873.92 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was also little changed at 21,923.95. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 per cent to 1,960.85 and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.2 per cent to 3,526.79. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5 per cent to 5,234.40. Shares in New Zealand were higher, Taiwan fell and Southeast Asian shares were mixed.

OIL SUPPLY WORRIES: After recovering a bit last week, U.S. crude oil fell 3 per cent on Monday in New York amid reports that Iran intends to increase exports by 500,000 barrels per day once economic sanctions are removed. That would add to excess global supplies that have been sapping oil prices.

THE QUOTE: "Iran has ... made it clear that it plans to cut prices to restore export market share promptly. If events unfold this way there is not likely to be much relief for oil prices until US producers cut production," Henry Ea of CMC Markets said in a commentary.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks closed modestly lower on Monday as a deepening slump in crude oil prices pulled down energy and mining stocks on a lighter than usual day of trading. The Dow lost 23.90 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,528.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.49 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,056.50. The Nasdaq composite shed 7.51 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,040.99.

CHINA CHILL: Chinese shares extended losses following Monday's 2.6 per cent drop in the Shanghai Composite index after data showed industrial profits falling in November from the year before. Worries over China's outlook and resulting weak demand are rippling into commodities markets.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 5 cents to $36.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.29, or 3.4 per cent, to close at $36.81 per barrel on Monday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 3 cents to $36.65 a barrel. On Monday, it lost $1.27, or 3.4 per cent, to close at $36.62 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was slightly higher at 120.31 yen, up from 120.26 yen on Monday. The euro slipped to $1.0978 from $1.0985 in the previous session.


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