Asian shares fall to 4-year lows; oil also battered

An investor looks at screens showing stock market movements at a securities company in Beijing, on Jan 8, 2016.
An investor looks at screens showing stock market movements at a securities company in Beijing, on Jan 8, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Shares were pummelled to four- year lows yesterday as the bloodshed resumed across Asia.

Oil and commodities were also battered after Chinese regulators confused markets by guiding the yuan sharply higher.

The local benchmark Straits Times Index fell 1.54 per cent, or 42.38 points, to 2,708.85. The bourse had already declined 6 per cent since the start of the trading year a week ago.

But the Singdollar strengthened slightly to $1.4352 against the US dollar, from $1.437 last Friday.

Shanghai shares fell 5 per cent, while Hong Kong plunged 2.8 per cent and Sydney dropped 1.2 per cent. Tokyo's market was closed.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1.8 per cent to its lowest since late 2011.

The surprising decision by China's central bank to raise the value of its currency yesterday helped ease concerns that a rapidly softening yuan would trigger devaluations across Asia as regional economies vie to keep their exports competitive. But it also baffled analysts and market observers about the thinking behind China's yuan strategy.

Oil prices also suffered, with the Brent falling 2.6 per cent to US$32.67, near a 12-year low.

Even a positive jobs report from the United States last Friday failed to break through the gloom. It surprised with a stronger-than-expected 292,000 gain in non-farm payrolls last month, an indication US businesses are still expanding.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'Asian shares fall to 4-year lows; oil also battered'. Print Edition | Subscribe