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Asia energy stocks hit by oil sell-off, eyes on Yellen


AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

Asian energy firms suffered further losses Thursday after another sharp fall in oil prices, while currency traders moved cautiously the day before a key speech by Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen.

World markets have struggled to gain traction this week with few catalysts to spur business ahead of Yellen’s talk at the annual Jackson Hole symposium of global central bankers.

Oil was hammered Wednesday on data showing a surprise jump in US stockpiles last week, with West Texas Intermediate shedding 2.8 percent and Brent down 1.8 percent. WTI has now lost almost five percent since the end of last week while Brent has slipped 3.6 percent.


The losses come after a seven-day oil rally that saw it enter a bull market — a 20 percent rise from recent lows — on hopes for an output limit deal at a meeting next month between key producers including the OPEC cartel and Russia.

Comments to AFP from key OPEC member Iran that it had yet to take any decision on agreeing to a ceiling, or even on taking part in the meeting, also weighed on buying sentiment.

But bargain-buying helped both contracts make small gains Thursday, with WTI up 0.2 percent and brent 0.1 percent higher.

The softening oil prices filtered through to energy firms across the region, with CNOOC and PetroChina in Hong Kong sinking, although earlier sharp losses were pared. Japan’s Inpex and JX Holdings were each down more than 1.5 percent and Sydney-listed Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton also suffered heavy falls.

– ‘Due for pullback’ –
On broader equity markets Tokyo ended the morning 0.3 percent lower, Shanghai closed down 0.6 percent and Sydney gave up 0.4 percent, while Seoul was marginally lower.

But Hong Kong added 0.2 percent in the afternoon and Singapore put on 0.3 percent.

“Global markets have rallied over the past seven weeks, but those gains have looked increasingly exhausted over the past three,” James Woods, a strategist at Rivkin Securities in Sydney, said.

“We are certainly due for a pullback. That being said, I don’t expect declines to be too large.”

The main focus this week is on what Yellen has to say at Friday’s gathering in Wyoming, with trades hoping for some idea about the Fed’s thinking on monetary policy and its plans for any possible interest rate hike.

As such currency markets are relatively quiet, with the dollar barely moved against its main rivals.

“Everybody is waiting for Yellen, and I’m not sure whether Yellen will provide the impetus all traders are looking for,” Nicholas Teo, a strategist at KGI Fraser Securities in Singapore, told Bloomberg News.

“The Fed rhetoric so far has been balanced although the last two weeks we’ve seen quite hawkish comments.”

– Key figures at 0700 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 16,555.95 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,068.33 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 22,836.34

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 100.44 yen from 100.45 yen Wednesday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1267 from $1.1264

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3213 from $1.3232

New York – DOW: DOWN 0.4 percent at 18,481.48 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 6,835.78 (close)

In this article:
DollarJanet Yellenoil
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