Oil stays below US$75 in Asia Monday as regional markets fall

KUALA LUMPUR: Oil prices stayed below $75 a barrel in Asia on Monday, dampened by falls in regional stock markets and on Wall Street over President Barack Obama's plans to restrict big banks.

Benchmark crude for March delivery dipped 2 cents to US$74.52 a barrel at midday Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract lost $1.54 to settle at $74.54 on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell for third straight day on Friday, losing 4.1 percent over the week.

It was the worst showing for the market since it began its recovery last March, partly due to disappointing earnings results and Obama's plan for tighter regulations.

Most Asian stock markets also were down Monday.

"The plan has caused both equities and commodities to consolidate considerably last week. Details of the plan aren't available but as more news come out, we can expect a lot of volatility in oil pricing," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with consultancy Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

He said the correction was not unusual and some traders may view the lower prices as a buy opportunity.

More earning reports expected this week including from Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co will provide indications of economic activities and a new direction for oil pricing, he added.

Obama spooked the market last week by asking Congress for curbs on the size of banks and an end to some of the risky trading large financial companies have used in recent quarters to boost their profits.

Obama's push for tighter regulations comes at the same time China is moving to cool its economy by reining in lending and stepping up regulatory oversight of that country's banks.

So far, U.S. earnings reports have been mixed, and upbeat earnings Friday from General Electric Co. and McDonald's Corp. weren't enough to sway investors.

In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil rose 0.48 cents to $1.9464 a gallon. For February contracts, gasoline added 0.5 cents to $1.9707 a gallon while natural gas futures gained 1 cent to $5.829 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for March delivery rose 9 cents to $72.92 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. - AP

AP also reported:

Asia stocks extend losses after Wall Street tumble

HONG KONG: Asian stocks markets extended their slide Monday after Wall Street suffered its biggest rout since the depths of last year's financial crisis.

Most markets dropped by about 1 percent or less as the region headed for its fourth day of losses.

The dollar eased against the yen and the euro, while oil prices were little changed below $75 a barrel.

Investors continued to cut back their bets on stocks after U.S. markets tumbled Friday to their worst three-day showing since they hit bottom last March.

Uncertainty over the ultimate effects of U.S. President Barack Obama's bank reform plan was cause for more caution, analysts said, as were worries about earnings results from American companies and rising opposition to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's reappointment.

In Asia, investors already on edge about China's economy and moves to prevent overheating were further unnerved after Bank of China announced plans to raise some $5.8 billion to replenish its capital and meet government standards.

The country's bank stocks were hit hard as a result.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average fell 60.24 points, or 0.6 percent, to 10,530.31, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 183.76 points, or 0.9 percent, to 20,542.42.

Elsewhere, South Korea's market dropped 14.85 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,669.50. China's Shanghai index lost 0.6 percent, Australia's market was down 0.7 percent and India's benchmark shed 0.6 percent.

Wall Street was poised for a higher open after U.S. futures gained ground.

Friday in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average slid 216 points, or 2.1 percent, to 10,172.98.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 24.72, or 2.2 percent, to 1,091.76. The index is down 5.1 percent in three days, its worst drop since March 2009.

The dollar weakened to 90.07 yen from 90.31 yen. The euro was flat at $1.4159.

In Kuala Lumpur Bernama reported that share prices on Bursa Malaysia ended the morning trade broadly lower Monday, as continuous losses in key heavyweights weighed heavily on the market, said dealers

At 12.30pm, the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) fell 6.16 points to 1,294.29, after opening 3.14 points lower at 1,297.31.

The Finance Index slid 42.99 points to 11,372.55, the Industrial Index eased 18.43 points to 2,682.47 and the Plantation Index slipped 32.92 points to 6,406.8.

The FBM Emas Index shed 38.98 points to 8,711.02, the FBM Ace Index declined 28.27 points to 4,466.94 and the FBM70 Index dipped 44.19 points to 8,510.76.

Decliners outpaced advancers by 422 to 165 while 226 counters remained unchanged and 507 others untraded.

Volume stood at 451.15 million shares worth RM531.4 million.

Among the active stocks, Focus Dynamics inched down one sen to 16 sen, while IRCB was flat at RM1.54 and Penta gained 3.5 sen to 59 sen.

For the heavyweights, Sime Darby lost six sen to RM8.84, Maybank and Maxis each fell two sen to RM6.89 and RM5.38 while CIMB Group and IOI Corp shed four sen each to RM13.30 and RM5.45 respectively.

The PPB group slid 16 sen to RM16.64, YTL Corp declined 14 sen to RM7.40 and British American Tobacco declined 10 sen to RM42.70.

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