Asian shares meander after Wall Street swings, oil prices drop further

EnergyAssociated Press

Asian shares meandered Wednesday following a volatile session on Wall Street as investors remained edgy over the slump in oil and metal prices.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.8 percent to 16,951.81 and South Korea's Kospi edged 0.1 percent lower to 1,915.52. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong was up 0.2 percent at 24,271.10 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.9 percent to 5,354.40. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.4 percent to 3,247.35.

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ENERGY: Oil fell again after the UAE energy minister said OPEC has no plans to curb production to shore up prices that have slumped almost 60 percent since June. U.S. crude was down 33 cents to $45.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 18 cents to close at $45.89 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 44 cents to $47.38 in London. Some of the fall in crude reflects oversupply but analysts say a weak global economy is also a factor.

COPPER CLANGER: The price of copper, a metal used in many industries that is also a barometer of global economic demand, plunged for a second day, adding to jitters from the slump in oil prices. Copper on CME Group's COMEX market was down 5.6 percent at $249.70 a pound. Copper on the LME was down about 4 percent to $5,775 a ton.

THE QUOTE: "Weaker leads from Wall Street, continued capitulation of oil and iron ore prices, along with a dramatic plunge in copper overnight, spells risk-off," said CMC Markets sales trader Will Leys in a commentary. "In short, this is the theme being played out today. Copper is often viewed as a bellwether for economic growth, so its decline has added to the existing unease."

WALL STREET: Stocks swung from gains to losses and almost back again on Tuesday. Investors are getting a jumpy start this year as markets grapple with the potential impact of plunging oil prices. The Standard & Poor's 500 index eased 5.23 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,023.03. The Dow fell 27.16 points, or 0.15 percent, to 17,613.68. The Nasdaq composite slipped 3.21 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 4,661.50.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 117.24 yen from its previous close of 117.61 yen. The euro rose to $1.1786 from $1.1781.