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Global stock markets weaker as fall in oil prices hits energy companies

SEOUL, South Korea – Global stock markets dropped sharply Friday as a further falls in the the price of oil weighed on investor sentiment, eroding gains sparked the day before by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s first rate hike in nearly a decade.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.6 per cent at 6,064 while France’s CAC 40 fell 1.2 per cent to 4,620. Germany’s DAX was 1.3 per cent lower at 10,618. Wall Street was likely to extend losses from the previous session. Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures were down 0.4 per cent.

ENERGY SLUMP: The price of oil hovered below $35 a barrel Friday following a big fall earlier this week after a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories. Energy and mining stocks have been pummeled this year as the sluggish global economy reduces demand even as supplies become more abundant.

OIL PRICES: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 49 cents at $34.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed 1.6 per cent lower, or 57 cents, at $34.95 a barrel in New York on Thursday. It had not closed beneath $35 per barrel since Feb. 18, 2009 and traded above $60 a barrel as recently as June. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was 24 cents lower at $37.82 a barrel in London.

ANALYST TAKE: “The Fed decision has clearly had no effect on the ongoing world of pain that oil prices find themselves in,” said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne, Australia. “A wave of defaults and bankruptcies in the energy sector still looks likely to come, and these concerns are certainly weighing on markets.”

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 sank 1.9 per cent to 18,986.80 and South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.1 per cent to 1,975.32. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng finished 0.5 per cent lower at 21,755.56 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 per cent to 5,106.70. Stock markets in Southeast Asia were mixed.

JAPAN STIMULUS: The Nikkei index slumped even after the Bank of Japan said it will expand its asset purchase program to encourage more corporate investment. The central bank is pumping tens of trillions of dollar a year into the economy but has yet to make much progress.

CURRENCIES: The euro was flat at $1.0840 while the dollar was down 1.1 per cent at 121.18 yen as traders responded to the limited additional stimulus from the Bank of Japan.