Asian stock markets tumble after oil prices crash

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Asian stock markets fell sharply on Monday spooked by a major crash in oil prices and weak economic data.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell more than 5% while in Australia, the ASX 200 slumped 7.3%, its biggest daily drop since 2008.

Markets have been rattled by the threat of a price war between oil exporting group Opec and its main ally Russia.

Asian investors also reacted to a slump in Chinese export figures and the shrinking of the Japanese economy.

Global markets have already seen heightened volatility over fears of a major economic hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

With oil prices crashing more than 30% on Monday, energy firms have seen some of the biggest share price falls.

Australia-listed Oil Search’s share price dropped by 31% while energy firm Santos saw its shares drop more than a quarter in value (27%).

Oil and other commodity companies make up a large part of the Australian stock market.

In China, its benchmark Shanghai Composite fell almost 2%, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index plummeted 3.7% in early trading on Monday.

“China will make its contribution to the thunder clouds hanging over markets as Monday starts,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at broker OANDA.

On Saturday, China released import and export figures for the first two months of the year. Exports fell by 17.2% while imports dropped by 4%. This gave the Chinese economy a trade deficit of $7.1 billion as it struggles with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“China may slowly be returning to work, but manufacturers will now likely be facing an international fall in demand, with coronavirus now well-established outside of Chinese shores,” added Mr Halley.

In Japan, market sentiment was hit by GDP data that showed a plunge in economic growth of -7.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

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