Japanese shares kept on their miserable path downwards, rocked by a surprising spike in yen's value which affects exporters' competitiveness abroad and cut into their profits. Investors were buying the safe-haven yen to escape turmoil in the markets, especially in Europe as the banking sector continues to deteriorate further and further.
Societe Generale bank in Europe reported disappointing earnings for the fourth quarter of 2015, adding to the dismal results of Deutsche Bank before it and leading banking shares down 6.3% on Thursday. Banks face a difficult challenges around the world as central banks resort to impose negative rates on their deposits, affecting their balance sheets negatively.
Japan's Nikke dropped nearly five percent to its weakest in 16 months, heading for a weekly loss of over 11%, the highest since the midst of the financial crisis in 2008. Australian stocks gave up 1.16%, while South Korea's KOSPI index tumbled 1.40% to its lowest since last August.
Wall Street closed considerably lower as a testimony by the Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen ahead of Congress failed to calm the markets. She stuck to the bank's plans of a gradual path of rate hikes in 2016, disappointing some investors, but nonetheless signaled the bank's readiness to hold on if conditions worsened.
Dow Jones lost 254 points, or 1.60% to close at 15,660. S&P 500 slid 22 points, or 1.23% to 1,829. NASDAQ's losses were more muted, buoyed by a 5% spike in electronic cars company Tesla, with the index closing down 16 points, or 0.39% at 4,266.
Oil prices jumped today after comments from an OPEC oil minister raised hopes for cooperation between producers to cut production, with Brent futures adding $1.38, or 4.57% to $31.45 a barrel. U.S. crude futures surged 4.62%, or $1.20 to trade at $27.41 a barrel.
Investors wait for a host of data today, with the Eurozone's industrial production expected to have risen 0.3% m/m in December, after slumping 0.7% in November, which would be positive for the euro.
From the U.S., Retail Sales are forecast to have risen 0.1% m/m in January, after dipping 0.1% in December, which is positive for the economy and the greenback.