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Asia stocks mixed after Wall Street falls on decline in oil prices

BEIJING, China – Asian stock markets were mixed in thin trading Thursday after the latest decline in oil prices pulled Wall Street lower. Markets in Japan and South Korea were closed for the New Year holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 per cent to 3,560.34. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.2 per cent to 5,308.70 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.1 per cent to 21,870.01. Singapore and Taiwan also fell. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Thailand and Indonesia gained.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 117.11 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 17,603.87. The Dow is on track to end 2015 down 1.2 per cent. Standard and Poor’s 500 index dropped 15 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2,063.36. The index is up only 0.2 per cent for the year. The Nasdaq composite lost 42.09 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 5,065.85. The Nasdaq is up about 7 per cent for year.

OIL DOLDRUMS: Benchmark U.S. crude for February delivery shed 3.4 per cent on Wednesday, extending its losses for the year to 40 per cent. Energy companies fell the most among the 10 sectors in the S&P 500, 1.5 per cent. The sector is down 23.8 per cent for the year. Southwestern Energy fell 6.8 per cent, while Consol Energy sank 5.6 per cent.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “On the eve of the new year, the fact is that lingering and familiar risks are not purged at the stroke of midnight,” said Mizuho Bank. It cited fluctuating oil prices and uncertainty about the impact of monetary policy changes in the United States, Europe and Japan. “Instead the risk landscape is a continuum that warrants caution.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 22 cents to $36.82 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $1.27 on Wednesday to close at $36.60. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 16 cents to $36.62 in London. It slid $1.33 in the previous session to $36.46.

CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 120.42 yen from Wednesday’s 120.49. The euro also fell, to $1.0926 from $1.0936.