Oil prices tanked six percent yesterday after U.S. crude inventories rose yet again last week by 2.400 million barrels, as shown by the American Petroleum Institute's weekly report. Tumult in stock markets around the globe, especially Europe and Asia, also pushed investors away from riskier assets like oil futures and toward safer areas of investment like government bonds and Japan's yen.
U.S. West Texas Intermediary (WTI) crude futures last traded at $28.56 a barrel, up 64 cents on the day, or 2.24%. Brent crude futures added 73 cents, or 2.40% to trade last at $31.05, threatening to slide below the psychological level of $30 too.
Asian stocks extended their heavy losses today, hurt by worries over banks' profits around the world and how would they pay their bonds in a time when interest rates from Japan to Europe are in negative territory. The pan-European index FTSEurofirst closed down 1.60%, despite expectations of more stimulus measures to come in March from the European Central Bank.
Japan's Nikkei slumped to a fresh 15-month trough at 15,571, down a heavy 3.20% on the day after dropping more than five percent on Tuesday. Australian shares skidded 1.20% to a 2-1/2 year low, while India's Nifty gave up one percent, hitting its lowest since May 2014. Chinese markets are closed for the new year holiday.
Wall Street engaged in highly volatile trading on Tuesday but ended slightly lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average registering a loss of 12 points, or 0.08% at 16,014. Standard and Poor's 500 edged down 1.23 points, or 0.07% to 1,852. NASDAQ Composite was the biggest decliner however, dipping 15 points, or a third of a percentage point to 4,268.
The dollar index, which gauges the greenback versus an array of major rivals, barely moved down from its previous close to 96.01. Dollar tumbled half a percent however against the safe-haven yen to 114.60, while trading flat against the euro at 1.1293, not far from a 3-1/2 month low hit yesterday at 1.1338.
Investors wait for a bunch of data today, with Britain's manufacturing production expected to have been flat in December, compared with November's 0.4% drop. A surprise on the upside would buoy sterling.
From the U.S., Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will testify ahead of the Congress, with analysts waiting to see if she would still stick to the bank's plan of a gradual path of rate hikes or abandon it, which would then support equities but hammer the dollar even more.