Brent prices broke the $30 level for the first time in 12 years, following a similar tumble below that level by U.S. crude on Tuesday. The latest round of decline came about as Japan's Core Machinery Orders plunged 14.4% m/m in November, compared with analysts' expectations of a just 7.3% drop, while Producer Price Index (PPI) also fell by 3.4% m/m in December, much worse that the 0.4% fall expected. The gloomy data spooked investors, raising fears that oil demand could wane considerably in 2016 in a time when markets are filled to the brink with excess supply.
Brent crude futures fell to $29.72 a barrel, a 12-year trough, before last trading at $30.07, down 0.35% for the day, while U.S. crude futures took the premium status again, trading higher at $30.66 a barrel.
Asian equities were mired in red territories, with Japan's Nikkei leading the way with a 3.27% plunge to a 14-week low at 17,130. China's Shanghai index gave up 1.0%, while Australia's lost 1.56%. Korea's investors were disappointed after the central bank held on to its rate policy with no change, with the KOSPI sliding 1.20%. India's Nifty dipped 0.70%.
Wall Street had its worst day in several months, with S&P 500 plumbing a 14-week low at 1,890, down 2.50%. NASDAQ dropped 159 points, or 3.41% to 4,526. Dow Jones lost 364 points, or 2.21% to 16,151.
Investors flocked to safe havens, with the euro touching an 11-month high against sterling at 0.7565. Yen edged up vs. dollar to 117.60. Gold benefited as well, advancing six dollars, or 0.60% to $1,093 an ounce.
A host of U.S. data is awaited today, most notably retail sales for December, forecast to show a 0.1% m/m drop, while PPI is expected to fall 0.2% m/m, both would negative for the dollar.