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Asia: Markets ease as oil prices struggle


[HONG KONG] Most Asian markets dipped on Thursday, with energy firms struggling after another sell-off in oil fuelled by concerns about a planned output cut.

Crude prices are slumbering at three-month lows after Opec member Iraq and non-member Russia suggested this week they would not take part in any limitations, despite a painful global supply glut.

Their comments have raised questions about the viability of a last month's agreement at oil cartel Opec to reduce output, which sent prices soaring.

Both main contracts have tumbled more than three percent this week and news that US stockpiles had fallen more than expected last week was unable to provide any support.

"Iraqi demands to join the list of countries exempted from quotas have simply added to the uncertainty" that an output cut can be implemented, Research firm Capital Economics said in a commentary.

"We have long been sceptical of the chances of a game-changing deal and continue to forecast that both Brent and WTI will end the year back at around US$45 per barrel."

Regional energy firms extended recent losses. Hong Kong-listed CNOOC sank more than three per cent, with traders also selling on the back of a weak earnings report.

PetroChina lost 1.5 per cent in Hong Kong, while Sydney-listed Woodside Petroleum was 1.5 per cent off and Santos lost one per cent.

Among regional markets Tokyo ended the morning down 0.3 per cent, Hong Kong shed 0.9 per cent - extending a one per cent loss on Wednesday - and Shanghai slipped 0.2 per cent.

Seoul, however, added 0.2 per cent, boosted by market heavyweight Samsung Electronics' two per cent surge.

The firm confirmed a 30 per cent plunge in third-quarter operating profit linked to its Galaxy Note 7 crisis but later announced its heir apparent JY Lee had joined the board, putting him a step towards control of the family-run conglomerate.

Lee Chaiwon, chief investment officer at Korea Value Asset Management said JY's bigger role should provide a much-needed boost to the under-fire company, saying it "will become more market-friendly and will "quicken its restructuring process".

The dollar rose against the pound, euro and other high-yielding currencies as a preliminary survey showing the key US services sector expanded in October reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will lift interest rates before the end of the year.