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Energy stocks sink but oil bounces as year ends


Stockbrokers on floor of New York Exchange

Stockbrokers on floor of New York Exchange

Energy shares fell again Thursday on the last trading day of the year, tracking losses in New York and Europe although oil prices bounced slightly following another hefty loss.

With business light, stock markets flitted in and out of positive territory and Shanghai ended a rollercoaster year on a low note, losing almost one percent.

Crude prices edged up slightly but were unable to claw back the losses of more than three percent suffered Wednesday after data showed a surprise jump in US commercial stockpiles.

Along with a sharp growth slowdown in China, the slump in commodities has been a key story through 2015, with the cost of oil down more than 60 percent from recent peaks seen in summer 2014.

Crude has been hammered by anaemic demand, a slowdown in the global economy — particularly China — a worldwide supply glut and a strong dollar.

In Hong Kong petroleum-linked firms dipped, with CNOOC down 1.6 percent, PetroChina off one percent and Kunlun Energy 0.3 percent lower.

And in Sydney mining giant BHP Billiton lost 1.3 percent while Rio Tinto eased 0.2 percent and Santos shed 2.7 percent.

“This year has been a very volatile and difficult year as the markets were assaulted by volatility from different asset classes,” Kelvin Tay, regional chief investment officer at UBS’s wealth management business in Singapore, told Bloomberg News.

“The sharp selloff in the commodities market badly affected the Asian currency markets, especially Southeast Asian currencies and equities.”

– ‘Monkey market’ –
However, he added: “China’s economy will have a soft landing in 2016.”

The slowdown in China’s growth, and fears about Beijing’s ability to manage it, sent shudders through global markets in the summer, slicing trillions off valuations. The Shanghai index, which had soared 150 percent in 12 months crashed more than 40 percent, with profit-taking and concerns about high valuations also stoking worries.

On Thursday markets limped towards the finish line, with Hong Kong ending up 0.2 percent and Sydney easing 0.5 percent by the close.

Hong Kong lost more than seven percent in 2015 while Sydney was two percent lower, having succumbed to the summer sell-off after a bright start to the year.

Shanghai closed down 0.9 percent, drawing to a close one of the most painful years in its 25-year history but still ending it 9.4 percent to the good.

“It was the year of the ‘monkey market’ for Chinese stocks — jumping up and down like a monkey,” said professor Oliver Rui of the China Europe International Business School.

Tokyo and Seoul were closed for public holidays, while most regional markets will be shut Friday for New Year’s Day.

– Key figures around 0710 GMT –
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 21,914.40 (close)

Shanghai – composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 3,539.18 (close)

Sydney – S&P/ASX200: DOWN 0.5 percent at 5,295.9 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN to $1.0930 from $1.0932 late Wednesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN to 120.42 yen from 120.52 yen

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.7 percent at 17,603.87 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 6,274.05 (close)

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