Shares fall on oil's five-year low; dollar slides

Wed Dec 10, 2014 7:36pm EST
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By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices slumped to five-year lows on Wednesday and U.S. and European equity markets fell as investors, worried about the Greek and Chinese economies, withdrew from riskier positions and bought the Japanese yen, which rose against the U.S. dollar.

Brent crude oil fell to $63.56 a barrel, the lowest since July 2009, on signs of oversupply and waning demand. U.S. and European markets were dragged lower by losses in energy, with all three major U.S. stock indexes falling more than 1.5 percent. The S&P energy index .SPNY closed down over 3 percent as the worst-performing sector.

Oil prices have been pressured by a strong U.S. dollar and OPEC's decision against an output cut. Brent crude LCOc1 settled down $2.60, or 3.89 percent, at $64.24 a barrel. U.S. crude CLc1 settled down $2.88, or 4.51 percent, at $60.94 a barrel.

"Weak demand for energy at lower prices concerns investors about the prospect for global economic growth, and they are locking in profits for the year and selling as deflationary fears start to seep in," said Robert Stein, chief executive officer at Astor Investment Management in Chicago.

The drag on European energy shares sent the region's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 into negative territory for a third straight session.

Chinese shares rebounded on hopes for easing of monetary policy, after data showed inflation in the world's second-biggest economy hit a five-year low last month. But losses in U.S. and European shares overshadowed gains in China.

In Europe, Greek shares were among the top losers on mounting concerns over the country's politics, down 1 percent, adding to Tuesday's roughly 13 percent plunge.

The dollar posted its biggest one-day loss against the yen since June 2013 on worries over Greece and the weakness in Chinese economic data. The greenback was last down 1.47 percent against the yen at 117.93 yen JPY=.   Continued...

A man changes the price for a gallon of gasoline at a gas station in Medford, Massachusetts December 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder