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Oil slump drags down Asian markets

BBC News BBC News 18/04/2016
A worker on an Iraqi oil refinery © Getty Images A worker on an Iraqi oil refinery

Falling oil prices hit Asian stock markets after a meeting of oil producers ended without a deal on freezing output.

Big Qantas plane © Getty Images Big Qantas plane

The international oil benchmark Brent was down by more than 5% to $40.87 a barrel. US crude futures fell 5.5% at $38.16 a barrel.

Yahoo © Getty Images Yahoo

Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished down 572.08 points, or 3.4%, at 16,275.95.

Market sentiment in Japan was also affected by an earthquake which hit the south of the country at the weekend.

Energy shares hit

Oil prices fell after a meeting of the world's leading oil exporters in Qatar failed to secure an agreement to cap output.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, appeared willing to only freeze output if all Opec members agreed, including Iran.

But Iran maintained it would continue the increase in oil production it has followed since economic sanctions were lifted earlier this year. Iran was not at the meeting in Qatar. The next Opec meeting is scheduled to take place in June.

In Australia, the commodities-heavy benchmark S&P ASX 200 index closed down 0.4% at 5,137.10.

Shares of commodity-related firms all traded lower. BHP Billiton lost 3%, Woodside Petroleum shares fell 1.4% and shares of Rio Tinto gave up 1.5%.

In South Korea the Kospi closed down 0.3% at 2,009.10.

Elsewhere in the region, the benchmark Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell by 0.73% to 21,161.50 points, while in China the Shanghai Composite fell 1.44% to 3,033.66.

Earthquake impact

Some shares in Japan were affected by the impact of the earthquake which hit the south of the country at the weekend.

Toyota shares closed down 4.8% after the carmaker said it was suspending production at various facilities across the country this week.

The company's supply chain was disrupted when an earthquake hit the Kumamoto prefecture last Saturday. a region that is an important manufacturing hub for many big Japanese firms.

Electronics giant Sony has also had to suspend production at its plants there, and shares in Sony closed 6.8% lower.

Saturday's magnitude-7.3 quake struck at 01:25 (15:25 GMT on Friday) close to the city of Kumamoto, which had been hit by a magnitude-6.4 quake on Thursday night.

Both quakes caused huge damage to roads, bridges and tunnels, and big landslides cut off remote mountain villages.

Qantas turbulence

Apart from the energy stocks in Australia, Qantas shares faced headwinds in Monday's trade. They closed down 10.84%, paring losses from earlier in the day when they tumbled by as much as 14%.

The Australian airline has decided to cut several routes, due to lower demand. In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange the carrier said it would remove three flights from Sydney to Los Angeles and it would be "re-directing capacity to Singapore and Hong Kong in response to demand in those markets".

Yahoo deadline

Monday is the deadline for preliminary bids for Yahoo's media assets, which include Yahoo News, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports and a range of digital magazines.

According to various media reports, potential suitors range from private equity firm TPG to the owner of the UK's Daily Mail. Yahoo has set a deadline for 18 April for interested parties to submit their offers.

Yahoo has been under pressure from shareholders to turn itself around. The company's shares have fallen by about 30% since the end of 2014.

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