Oil prices resumed their vicious streak of tumbles after a brief two-day halt last week. The latest decline comes about as Iraq announced record levels of production in December, stoking fears again of global oversupply in a time when global growth is sagging, with China's economy growing the slowest in two decades last year, while America is expected to to show a sharp deceleration of growth in fourth quarter to a mere 0.8%.
Brent crude futures gave up 30 cents, or one percent to trade at $30.66 a barrel, down 5% so far this week. U.S. crude futures had it even worse, sliding back below $30 at $29.56, down a heavy 2.55% for the day, and nearly 8% for the week.
Asian markets took a hit in tandem, with Japan's Nikkei relinquishing 2.50% to 16,689. China's Shanghai index lost 2.09%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.40%. South Korea's KOSPI backed down 1.20%.
Wall Street closed with large losses, led by the energy sector which slumped 4.5%. The Dow Jones index tumbled 208 points, or 1.29% to 15,885. NASDAQ shed 72 points, or 1.58% to 4,518. S&P 500 skidded 29 points, or 1.56% to close at 1,877.
Safe havens flexed their muscles amid the global gloom, with Japan's yen rising 0.21% versus the dollar to 118.07, the second straight daily gain. It gained 0.30% against sterling to 168.06, while advancing 0.20% versus euro to 128.08.
Precious metals also had it good, with gold futures driving up seven dollars, or 0.66% to $1,112.50 an ounce. Silver prices were more muted, climbing only a cent to $14.27 an ounce. Even industrial metals held their ground, with copper futures trading up 0.07% at $1.993 a pound.
Dollar steadied after a 0.3% loss yesterday, trading today at 99.38 versus a basket of major currencies. The greenback rose 0.15% against sterling to 1.4226, while inching up 0.07% versus euro to 1.0843.
The most important piece of data awaited today is the U.S. CB Consumer Confidence survey, expected at 96.6 for January, almost the same as December's 96.5. A surprising uptick in the reading would be positive for the dollar.