May 9, 2008

Crude Oil Steadies at Record Level - Depress Asian Market Advance

08 May 2008 | 14:56

Crude Oil Steadies at Record Level; Depress Asian Market Advance

Asian shares traded mostly lower, with Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average losing ground on weakness in export stocks, while Australia's benchmark index shrugged off a weaker start to edge into positive territory by late morning although BHP Billiton retreated after drops in commodity prices.

The declines were in line with a weaker finish on Wall Street yesterday, after crude-oil prices surged above $123 a barrel, alarming investors worried about the impact upon consumers and the overall economy. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 206.48 points to end at 12,814.35. The S&P 500 fell 25.69 points to 1,392.57. The Nasdaq Composite fell 44.82 points to 2,438.49.

Crude oil prices advanced as much as 28 cents in after-hours Asian trading to a record $123.81 a barrel. The June contract recently was trading down, at $123.54 a barrel. The contract rose $1.69, or 1.4%, to settle at $123.53 a barrel Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange after touching $123.75.

The Nikkei closed the morning session 1.1% lower at 13,943.26. The Topix index fell 1.5% to 1,372.95 while South Korea's Kospi traded a little lower by 0.3% at 1,848.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 reversed a 0.9% slide in the morning session to end a trade 1% higher at 5,723.20. Meanwhile, Australia's unemployment rate rose to seasonally adjusted 4.2% in April from 4.1% in March. The number of employed rose 25,400.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said its seasonally adjusted workforce participation rate, or the proportion of working-age persons at work or actively seeking work, rose to 65.4% in April from 65.3% in March.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 0.6% at 25,449.79. The Hong Kong China Enterprises Index, or mainland-incorporated shares listed in Hong Kong, eased 1.6% to 13,886.59.

The Shanghai Composite Index reversed an early deficit to climb 2.2% to 3,656.84. Taiwan's Weighted Price Index fell 0.7% to 8,866.62.

Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index was down 0.2% to 2,376.93, Malaysia's KLSE Composite Index was down 0.5% to 1,280.35.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar was quoted a 104.35-yen, compared to 104.73 yen in late New York trading Tuesday.

European opened on a weaker note, with investors cautious ahead of interest rate decisions due later in the day.

National indexes were also weaker, with the U.K. FTSE 100 index down 0.5% to 6,232.80, the German DAX 30 index down 0.7% to 7,027.38 and the French CAC-40 index down 0.7% to 5,041.11.

Meanwhile, Germany's trade surplus was a touch below from the unrevised estimate of March, while the current account surplus beat forecasts showed Thursday.

According to the data from the Federal Statistics Office Germany's trade surplus totaled EUR16.7 billion in March, down from an unrevised EUR16.9 billion in February.

The current account surplus of Europe's largest economy rose to EUR17.2 billion in March, from an upwardly revised EUR16.1 billion in February. The preliminary reading for February showed a surplus of EUR15.4 billion.

Exports totaled EUR84.0 billion, a 0.2% rise on the year, while imports amounted to EUR67.3 billion, a 3.3% increase from March 2007.