Oil plunge fuels run on energy firms as Asia stocks tumble

[HONG KONG] Energy-linked firms took another battering in Asia on Monday morning, leading losses on regional markets as oil prices sank to fresh seven-year lows, with warnings of further falls to come for the commodity.

However, while companies that rely on fossil fuels to drive profits were taking a hit, analysts said the weekend climate deal was unlikely to have had a major impact on their shares for now.

Adding to the unease on trading floors is this week's Federal Reserve policy meeting that is widely expected to see US interest rates lifted for the first time since 2006.

Crude has slumped more than 12 per cent since the OPEC oil producers' group on December 4 opted against cutting its output levels, despite anaemic demand, a global economic malaise and a growth slowdown in major consumer China.

And with the commodity falling further on Monday, regional energy companies tumbled. In Sydney BHP Billiton shed 2.2 per cent, Rio Tinto was 1.5 per cent lower and Santos lost 3.4 per cent.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong-listed CNOOC sank 2.8 per cent and Sinopec fell more than two percent. Inpex dived 3.7 per cent in Tokyo while JX Holdings was more than three per cent off.

However, CMC Markets chief analyst Ric Spooner said there were too many other negatives to suggest Saturday's agreement to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels had any real impact.

"It's difficult to strip out what impact there has been, if any, given the day already had so many negatives," he said. "That said, it's possible that investors will increasingly start to look to the medium- and long-term future of the oil and gas sector." Tokyo's Nikkei led Asian markets down, shedding 2.5 per cent by lunch, while Hong Kong was off 1.8 percent, Sydney slipped 1.3 per cent and Shanghai gave up 0.3 per cent.

The losses followed another sell-off on Wall Street, where all three main indexes ended in the red.

Hong Kong-listed shares in SCMP Group were suspended as it was announced Chinese Internet giant Alibaba will pay US$266 million for the city's South China Morning Post newspaper.

The Chinese firm announced the purchase on Friday, saying it would use its "digital expertise" to provide "comprehensive and insightful news and analysis of the big stories in Hong Kong and China".

SCMP Group also owns the Hong Kong editions of magazines Esquire, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Harper's Bazaar.

Also in Hong Kong, conglomerate Fosun International plunged more than 11 per cent as it resumed trading after it said last week its head was cooperating with authorities over an investigation, but there were no details about what the inquiry was in connection with.

The firm's billionaire chairman Guo Guangchang, dubbed "China's Warren Buffett", reappeared Monday after he went missing on Thursday.



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