US stocks slide on weak Asian data and oil price slumps

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(Close): US stocks ended sharply lower on Monday as the price of oil continued its sharp falls.

The price of Brent crude fell below $63 per barrel for the first time since July 2009 as weak demand and oversupply continue to put a damper on prices.

The Dow Jones fell 106.31 points to 17,852.48 and the S&P 500 dropped 15.06 points to 2,060.31.

The Nasdaq index shed 40.06 points to close at 4,740.69.

Concerns about the health of the global economy continued to weigh on investors.

Chinese exports grew slower than expected last month, while figures from Japan showed the economy contracted by more than initially estimated in the third quarter.

The weak data out of Asia renewed concerns about prospects for global growth, despite Friday's strong US payrolls figures which showed the economy added a larger-than-expected 321,000 jobs in November.

Oil companies were the day's biggest losers, as investors worried about their ability to withstand continuing price slumps.

Shares in Chevron fell 3.67% and Exxon Mobil was down 2.26%.

Shares in Cubist Pharmaceuticals jumped 35.29% to $100.60 after it agreed to be bought by Merck & Co for $8.4bn plus the assumption of $1.1bn in debt. Merck shares rose slightly by 0.63% to $61.88.