Business

Asian markets fall on lower oil prices

Man walking past share price board Image copyright Reuters

Asian stocks fell, dragged down by energy-related shares as oil prices hit their lowest levels since 2009.

The price of West Texas crude dropped 5.8% to $37.65 a barrel, while Brent Crude fell 5.3% to $40.73.

Oil prices have been hit after Opec - the oil producers' cartel - failed to cut production last week.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 1% at 19,492.6, despite figures showing that Japan's economy avoided a technical recession in the third quarter.

Shares in troubled Japanese tech giant Toshiba ended 3% lower following the news that the firm could face a record fine of 7.37bn yen ($60m; £39m) for its multi-billion dollar accounting scandal.

Fifty individual Toshiba shareholders are also seeking $2.45m in damages from the firm after its stock plunged following the accounting scandal.

Oil stocks hurting

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Image caption China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC Group) is a major oil firm in China

Fresh data from China showed the country's exports fell 3.7% in yuan-denominated terms in November from a year earlier, while imports fell 5.6%.

The latest figures leave the country with an overall trade surplus of 343bn yuan ($53.4bn) and did little for investor sentiment.

The Shanghai Composite index closed down 1.9% at 3,470.07, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 1.3% to 21,905.13.

Shares in China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC Group) - a major oil firm in China - finished 3.6% lower.

In Australia, Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.91% at 5,108.60 points, with energy stocks weighing on the index.

Shares in BHP Billiton, which has substantial interests in conventional and unconventional oil and gas, closed down 5% in Sydney trade.

Meanwhile, Sydney-listed shares of oil and gas provider Santos closed down 12.6%.

Analysts warned investors to steer clear of shares related to the oil and gas sector.

"With conditions expected to remain volatile, investors would be wise to avoid the sector altogether and focus on other opportunities instead," said the Motley Fool's Ryan Newman.

Samsung

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Image caption Samsung is one of Korea's oldest so-called chaebols - huge, family-run conglomerates

On a brighter note, shares of South Korea's Samsung Engineering - part of the huge family-run Samsung conglomerate - jumped by nearly 24% in early trade after the group's heir, Lee Jae-yong, said he would back the construction arm's 1.2 trillion won ($1.02bn) rights issue.

Samsung Engineering posted a record quarterly loss in the three months to September, prompting plans for the rights issue. The firm's shares finished the trading day up 14%.

However, the good news did little to help the benchmark Kospi index, which finished the day down 0.75% at 1,949.04.

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