The dollar index is firmer, knocking gold and industrial metals. In equities, Wall Street’s S&P 500 is returning from its Thanksgiving day break and dipping 3 points from its record close of 2,073. US retailers will be in focus as “Black Friday” kicks off the festive shopping season
The price of Brent crude fell to $71.12 a barrel early on Friday, its lowest since July 2010, but has pared losses to trade up 34 cents at $72.92. That still leaves the energy benchmark down 6.2 per cent in just the last two sessions after Opec left its oil production targets unchanged.
Indeed, Brent has now shed 37 per cent since its mid-June high as weak demand and a surge in US shale production has created fears of oversupply.
The fallout from the oil price crash is being felt across a range of asset classes as investors calculate the economic winners and losers and the slide’s monetary policy impact.
The shares of resource groups are taking a hit. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.6 per cent after the energy sector plummeted. In Europe, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 is down 0.3 per cent as the oil and gas subsector slides 3 per cent.
Those countries that are net oil exporters are feeling the pain, notably Russia, where the rouble is down 1.3 per cent to 49.27 per dollar, a record low. Norway’s krone and the Nigerian naira are also under pressure.
In contrast, many companies where fuel is a large proportion of their cost base, notably transport groups, are seeing their shares advance.
The New York RBoB gasoline futures contract, which impacts the price drivers pay to fill their tanks, is down 5.2 per cent to $1.9288 a gallon, the lowest since September 2010.
“The resulting savings at the gas pump will likely continue to bolster consumer shares as the market anticipates the positive implications on consumers’ spending,” said Strategas Research.
The sharp drop in global energy costs for net-importer India has helped push the Sensex equity index up 0.9 per cent to a new record.
Japan is another country that must buy most of its oil from abroad and the Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 per cent, leaving it a fraction short of a new seven-year peak.
Helping the exporter-sensitive Tokyo market was a weaker yen. Lower energy import costs for Japan are adding to Japan’s disinflationary forces, which in turn may encourage the country’s central bank to continue, or even increase, its stimulus policies.
The BoJ’s ultra-loose strategy has contributed to a sharp fall for the yen over the past two years and it is off another 0.6 per cent to Y118.42 versus the buck and eyeing the seven-year low of Y118.96 hit last week.
The European Central Bank is also mindful that a falling oil price will subdue inflation, and traders think that may make it more likely the eurozone’s monetary guardian will undertake further easing in order to boost demand.
Data released on Friday showed the bloc’s consumer prices growth slowed to a five-year low of 0.3 per cent in November.
“The risks around our already-anaemic inflation profile lie very firmly to the downside,” said James Ashley, chief European economist at RBC Capital Markets.
“We remain firmly of the view that the ECB will be forced to take further measures in Q1/15 by expanding its asset purchases programmes into a broader range of securities”.
This scenario was pressuring the euro and the yields on the region’s sovereign debt. The single currency has rallied, however, perhaps supported by some better than expected German retail sales, and is now up 16 pips to $1.2460. Ten-year Bund yields are 0.70 per cent, the most meagre ever, while equivalent maturity borrowing costs for France and Spain are also at record lows.
Falling eurozone bond yields make US paper relatively more attractive and so the 10-year Treasury is yielding 2.21 per cent, down 2 basis points on the day.
Declines for the yen and sterling are pushing the dollar index up 0.5 per cent to 88.00, flirting with its strongest level in four years.
The stronger greenback is not helping dollar-denominated commodities, with gold down $11 to $1,181 an ounce and copper slumping 2.6 per cent to $6,377 a tonne – its cheapest since March.
“With crude oil plunging, commodities generally have come under pressure with general portfolio liquidation being cited as a factor behind the move,” said Leon Westgate at Standard Bank.
In greater China, markets were mixed. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.1 per cent but the Shanghai Composite rose 2 per cent to a new three-year high on optimism over more interest rate cuts.
Additional reporting by Patrick McGee in Hong Kong
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